The events of September 2008 shook the world so profoundly that a lot of countries are yet to recover from it. And people who do not understand the world of finance (including yours truly) thought it to be a bolt from the blue.The common man discussed new intriguing terms like subprime mortgage crisis and global meltdown without understanding what really happened. We all sympathized with people who lost their high paying jobs or took pay cuts because of this, tightened our belts and moved on. Being in India, we felt the tremors but were not really in the eye of the storm, hence within a few months we had switched to more interesting topics of discussion.
Inside Job – which could easily be called Eyes Wide Shut (do watch the film and tell me if I am incorrect) came as a punch in the gut. I have come to enjoy well made documentaries. Bowling For Columbine brought tears to my eyes, Fahrenheit 9/11 made me deplore the Bush administration and both made me wonder how there can be so much injustice meted out in the name of governance. But nothing made me as angry as Inside Job did. Working in the corporate world, names like Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, AIG inspired admiration and awe …….to watch the level of corruption in the highest echelons of these giants was shameful. I felt a sense of personal shame watching people who hold feted and coveted positions lie, stumble, lie, stumble again but not budge from their stand. Felt ashamed of being a part of a world where some people will do anything for personal gain. Felt guilty when I saw images of ‘Tent Cities’ where the jobless and homeless live.
Did you know that this financial crisis was predicted as early as in 2005?
Did you know that these corporations took no heed of these warnings even though they were in papers published by renowned experts?
Did you know that some credit rating agencies were paid by the financial institutions to rate their products highly (read AAA) even though the products were worthless and everyone but the gullible investor knew it?
Did you know that senior academicians (how about the Dean of Columbia Business School?) got paid to write favourable articles on certain corporations?
Did you know that the CEOs of the very firms that filed for bankruptcy made approximately $500 million at the time these companies went under and did not have to give up even one dollar of their personal wealth though thousands of other lost their livelihood?
Did you know that AIG gave away millions of dollars in bonuses to its top level executives within 6 months of receiving a bailout from the government worth billions of dollars? For more interesting reading, go through this: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/livecoverage/2008/10/after_bailout_aig_executives_h.html
Did you know that some of the people who were responsible for the crisis still hold exalted positions within the US government?
Well the questions are many and the answers….”my friend are blowin’ in the wind”. For those of you who can handle the truth, do watch the film. It ran for just a week in Bombay (why am I not surprised!) but should be available in DVD format. And for those of us who feel our money is safe just because it is in the hands of the ‘Big Boys’ in the financial world – do watch out. SBI may be a better bet!
Copyright © Tara Verma February 2011
All Rights Reserved