Inside the Meltdown

Inside the Meltdown

This documentary investigates the causes of the worst financial crisis in 70 years and how the US government responded to a series of events that brought the western world’s economies to the brink of collapse.

As the housing bubble burst and trillions of dollars’ worth of mortgages began to turn bad in 2007, fear spread through the massive financial institutions that form the heart of Wall Street. By the spring of 2008, the investment bank Bear Stearns was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. To stabilise the markets, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke engineered a shotgun marriage between Bear Stearns and the commercial bank JP Morgan, with a promise that the federal government would cover Bear Stearns’s questionable assets tied to toxic mortgages. It was an unprecedented effort to stop the contagion of fear that seemed to be threatening the rest of Wall Street.

While publicly supportive of the deal, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was uncomfortable with government interference in the markets. The episode sent shockwaves through the economy as confidence in Wall Street began to evaporate, but worse was to follow.

In September 2008, another investment bank, Lehman Brothers, was on the brink of collapse. Once again, there were calls for Bernanke and Paulson to bail out the Wall Street giant. Paulson, however, under intense political pressure from conservative Republicans in Washington, let the company fail.

Within 24 hours, the stock market crashed and credit markets around the world froze.

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