DOC NYC 2018: Inside Lehman Brothers

A still from Inside Lehman Brothers.

Inside Lehman Brothers examines the events that led to the collapse of the banking firm during the 2008 financial crisis.

Ten years ago, the United States was undergoing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.  The impact would be felt for many years even when people claimed the recession was over.  What happened to everyone who enabled the collapse of the banks?

Banks were too big to fail.  This is what everyone was saying at the time.  The actions of Bush administration are ultimately what is responsible for this mess.  It’s not like we didn’t see it coming because the subprime mortgage crisis started a year earlier.  What makes this collapse so iconic is that it was the largest ever bankruptcy with over $600 billion in assets.   We’re talking about the fourth largest bank in the US at the time!  Please take a moment to digest this key piece of information.

Even before the collapse, those working for Lehman subsidiary BNC tried to stop it before it happened.  This includes Linda Weekes.  Matthew Lee wouldn’t touch fraudulent transactions from where he was sitting in New York.  Yet the whistle blowers were ignored.  Despite the actions that they took, they would suffer dire consequences.  Lehman Brothers would go as far as firing him from the company.  This is the part that seems to be unfair.  Here’s a guy that saw suspicious activity while holding a role as a Vice President!  Previously silent, the former vice president speaks up for the first time about what happened over a decade ago.  Lee is of the belief that many people should be in jail for what happened.  There is honestly no excuse for why they aren’t.

A former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Anton Valukas took on a big role in 2009.  This is because he was hired as the bankruptcy investigation examiner.  The investigation would examine some 30 million documents and at least 250 people were interviewed.  More importantly, everyone wanted to talk because they wanted to say that it was not them.  Nobody was sentenced to jail after the investigation.  Sure, we can place the blame on many figures but not one person would even go to jail.

How about this for an epilogue?  In 2017, bonuses on Wall Street were as high as $31 million.  These are levels that haven’t been seen since before the bank collapsed.  Meanwhile, subprime loans are back on the American market under the “non prime loan” label.  In May 2018, President Donald Trump rolled back the Dodd-Frank act. It’s unfortunate as the act protected consumers from abusive financial practices.  With such deregulation back on the table, the financial crisis could make a comeback.

Meanwhile, former Lehman Brothers Chairman and CEO Richard Fuld has never been charged with any crime relating to the bank’s collapse.  There is zero reason for not sending him to jail.  He has zero business working with money and yet, he is still working with money.  Please let this sink in for a while.

We’ve seen the story of the banks told before but mostly in narratives like Too Big To Fail and The Big Short.  Jennifer Deschamps does a brilliant job at digging deeper into the affair.  This is a story that needs to be told in the hope of preventing another financial crash.  While Inside Lehman Brothers runs just shy of 80 minutes, this documentary only offers a glimpse into what happened in the lead-up to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

DIRECTOR: Jennifer Deschamps
FEATURING: Linda Weekes, Cheryl McNeil, Sylvia Vega-Sutfin, Oliver Budde, Richard Fuld (archive), Gary Gwilliam, Matthew Lee, Anton Valukas

Inside Lehman Brothers held its North American premiere during DOC NYC 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.