Ethical Performance
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DVD review: Inside Job

October 2011

“This film cost $20tn to make,” announces Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the 2008 financial crash. Though perhaps not justifying such a budget, the film does well to explain a complex story sharply.

As Matt Damon narrates us through the rudimentaries, priceless interviews with those at the helm in 2008 make for compelling viewing. Figures from the various banks and regulatory institutions, and in most cases both, squirm as they are asked about their conflicts of interests and ineptitude.

For example, the hapless former Federal Reservist Frederic Mishkin, who approved the strength of the Icelandic economy after a large and undeclared payment for his services from the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, is asked how he could not see the country’s problems and why, after the crash, the title of his paper on his CV changed from Financial Stability in Iceland to Financial Instability in Iceland. A typo, Mishkin answers.

The documentary’s idealised view of the European banking system gives the film a short-sighted outlook, however. If the only answer to unregulated American-style speculation is unregulated European-style speculation, the world is in a desperate state indeed.

Interviewing the former and present IMF heads, the now disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the now beleaguered Christine Lagarde, for their condescending and enlightened views on what went wrong, the documentary seeks criticism from its antagonists’ equivalents who, as is clear now, have equal responsibility for the crisis.

What’s remarkable about the film’s portrait of regulatory capture in the US is how little things have changed there and in Europe. Banks continue in much the same regulatory framework, with the same incentives to risk, and remain too big to fail.

Ben Hickman
Inside Job, directed by Charles Ferguson. Sony. DVD. 2011.

Ben Hickman | Global | Industry sector: banks, finance and insurance

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