In the final instalment of this four part PBS special the culture of Wall Street and investment banking is explored. It was a culture of making money and everyone was in on it. Bankers, really glorified salesman, were encouraged by management and a system of lucrative bonuses to sell derivatives to everyone, from municipal governments, countries trying to get into the EU, even nuns.
Ethical boundaries were deliberately crossed in the stampede to sell these complex products to unsuspecting customers. Hell, even the bankers themselves didn’t really understand what they were selling. It all looked good on the surface until the market changed in 2008 causing the subprime crisis in America to spread throughout the world.
People around the world felt the pain and the occupy movement rose up out of the millions of unemployed and disillusioned. But despite the resilience of this movement the banks and their lobbyists are still firmly in control and have successfully watered down any attempts to reform the system. So we are still where we are before the crash began. The big banks are still too big to fail and the risky derivative market is (mostly) hidden from regulatory oversight. It appears that the lessons have not been learned.
For me it is only a matter of time until another bubble pops. Again I think a spike in oil prices will prick this bubble just as it has the last several recessions. Add in climate change and the fact that a huge part of the global stock market value is based on fossil fuel reserves that cannot be extracted if we are to have a safe climate, the events of 2008 are just a taste of things to come.
Watch Money, Power and Wall Street: Part Four on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.