Charles Ferguson’s brilliant “Inside Job” documents the endemic greed of the financial sector, whose foray into decades of fraud destroyed the global economy. Talking heads include the Federal Reserve chairmen, Congressmen, Justice Department officials, journalists, hedge fund managers and business-school faculty.
Snappy and energetic, this is a user friendly tutorial on the larcenous mysterious practices the financial sector used to fleece their own customers. Ferguson walks us through decades of Washington’s dismantling of bank regulations put in place after the Great Depression.
The irresponsible deregulations culminated in the “foxes in the henhouse,” feeding frenzy of derivatives that toppled the world economy to the tune of $20 trillion, with million of people losing the homes and jobs. Though not discussed in the film the Nixon Shock measures (1971) cancelled the direct convertibility of the United States dollar to gold, ended the existing Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange. EU leaders have called for a global summit as soon as next month to rewrite the 1944 Bretton Woods accord.) Reagan ushered in deregs of Wall Street and the savings and loan industry. During the Clinton era, more Depression-era safeguards were repealed, ushering in huge Wall Street mergers and laws favoring the financial services industry. The unregulated derivatives industry was created, leading to the “junk bond” Dot-com bubble burst nightmare.
Ferguson (“No End In Sight”) delights in interview moments with Wall Street giants (allowed to run rampant for over a decade) squirming in the glare of the camera, each as reckless, amoral and gimlet eyed as the Robber Barons of yore. Ferguson parses the supreme conflict of interest between Wall Street and business school experts who helped fleece the public by praising both deregulation and the worthless products, gobbling up big fees for their partisan cheerleading. (This conflict of interest is now rampant in all fields, as Universities have become penetrated by corporate interests who underwrite, dictate and de facto censor the sort of intellectual research that was once expected to be objective.)
In a filmed conversation with Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Columbia Business School and former Bush advisor explains that “Very prominent professors of economics, often people who’ve also held high government posts, are paid to testify in Congress… to be expert witnesses in both civil and criminal trials…to write papers that praise the financial services industry, and argue on behalf of deregulation of the industry. They make millions, in some cases tens of millions of dollars, doing this. And this is usually not disclosed.” Asked if he has ties with financial services firms. Vigilant Hubbard replies “Possibly.” “You don’t remember?” Ferguson probes.” This isn’t a deposition, sir,” peeved Hubbard replies “I was polite enough to give you time — foolishly, I now see. But you have three more minutes. Give it your best shot.”
Ferguson, who holds a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in Political Science, and co-writers/ editors Adam Bolt and Chad Beck, perform a stunning autopsy of American ethics as they document the decades, spent rigging the market. Protected by esoteric language, purveying undecipherable hybrid products, which few brokers could or would explain to their clients, the entire financial system pushed the runaway, toxic speculation that destroyed generations of life savings. Then, industry appointees orchestrated the Government Bailout as taxpayer money continued to reward the culprits.
Obama is seen changing his tune, the longer he’s in office. His toothless reforms illustrate that Washingtonian endgame capitalists are still firmly in the driver seat. Ferguson, who supported Obama during his campaign, has termed Obama’s failure to enact a comprehensive financial reform “a tragedy” for America.
Ferguson reveals the cruelest “joke” of all-Goldman Sachs “betting” against the very financial products (worthless) they sold their clients, and the entire Ponzi scheme logic behind credit default swaps (the products that brought down AIG. Worse yet, Washington is ridden with culpable financial sector machers appointed to the highest financial advisory posts in the land (Bush appointee Hank Paulson, Obama appointees Timothy Geithner and Larry Summer and Ben Bernanke.)
Ferguson has gone on record in a recent interview “This was a crime. It was a more serious crime than any organized-crime case. This killed more people than 9/11 did.” Based on Elliot Spitzer’s approach, Fergusin advocates going after the White-collar criminals of the financial-services industry, “in the same way we investigate and prosecute the mafia.” Spitzer’s approach-find out about their sexual, drug or tax secrets, then flip them to give up their boss.
Original music by Alex Heffes and a dramatic narration by Matt Damon add to the drama of a well researched and illustrated lecture on what should have been the end of Free Market ideology if anyone was minding the store. Ferguson’s reasoned jeremiad, which becomes increasingly incredulous as it proceeds, uses logic, polished production values and a snappy Peter Gabriel opening song (“Big Time”) to embellish its case, advocating in it’s closing moments that audience members become activists and pursue changes in Washington or suffer more of the same.