TOO BIG TO FAIL (TV)

Summary

This made-for-television film, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, examines the causes and aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The program begins with a montage of news reports and commentary on the growth and burst of the housing bubble and subsequent "mortgage meltdown," which caused investment bank Bear Stearns to be sold to JPMorgan Chase. Dick Fuld, chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, realizes that his bank too is in serious trouble, and calls Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, asking him to appeal to the famously wealthy investor Warren Buffet for help. Paulson meets with a team from the Treasury, who suggests a "break the glass" plan and states that Congress will not help. Buffet is unsure, and Fuld fumes that he is asking too high a price, refusing to panic and sell out for cheap. Paulson talks with Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and they debate looking to Bank of America for assistance. Despite Fuld's objections, Lehman President Joe Gregory is ousted and replaced with Bart McDade, and though they try to work with a Korean business, Fuld's meddling causes the deal to fail. Paulson refuses to sell out like Bear Stearns, but the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) both plummet, and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner tells Paulson that they will likely need the government's help after all.

During the Beijing Olympics, Paulson learns that the Chinese are also losing money because of Fannie and Freddie, and that Russia is suggesting that both countries dump their bonds and disassociate themselves from America's debt. Bernanke suggests that UK banking company Barclays is an option, but Paulson distrusts the British and prefers to work with Bank of America, if necessary. The government soon takes control of, or nationalizes, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and investment CEO Chris Flowers argues that Paulson is merely "posturing" by refusing to sell. American International Group (AIG) insurance calls Flowers and says they too have "run out of cash," and on Michele Davis' suggestion, Paulson leaks to the press that the government will not bail out Lehman Brothers under any circumstances. Geithner argues that Barclays cannot afford the risk, and Lehman dips to $4 a share. Paulson's advisor Dan Jester says that Bank of America wants a "Jamie Deal," or the same deal given to Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Paulson summons the heads of the world's prominent banks to a meeting and explains that Lehman needs a secondary buyer as well as Bank of America, and though the CEOs are reluctant to help a competitor, Paulson bluntly states that it is "their problem" because the entire financial world is at risk. Fuld calls to raise the price on Lehman, and John Thain of Merrill Lynch decides to call Bank of America for his own company, meaning that they will no longer assist Lehman. Upon learning of Thain's actions, Paulson tells Geithner to deal with Barclays after all. Dimon states that Lehman's unfavorable real estate holdings must be dealt with somehow, and offers a billion dollars of his own money, as does Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.

Geithner is relieved by the arrangement, but Barclays then says that they will need thirty days for shareholder approval, meaning that the deal cannot happen. Paulson and Fuld are both furious, and Paulson realizes that Lehman will have to formally declare bankruptcy, though Fuld refuses until his hand is forced by the board's vote. Paulson discovers that his decision to file for bankruptcy and not ask for the government's help is being perceived as "oddly reassuring" to the public, and at a press conference, he comments on the "moral hazard" of a bailout. He then learns that the Dow Jones has plummeted, however, and that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are in dire trouble. AIG's failure is also a "huge problem" because all of the banks bought their insurance from them, and the Treasury team scrambles to find a solution, learning that Europe is also feeling the effects of the crisis. Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric calls to say that he cannot fund his extremely important business if the banks fail, and AIG's shares crash to $2. The Treasury team revisits the idea of a bailout, and when Davis wonders what to tell the press, they recap the cause of the crisis: Wall Street made money through loans, and banks began loaning money to riskier "bottom-feeding" clients, also buying insurance in case of mortgage defaults. AIG took the extreme risk and made extra money from various fees, but when housing prices went down, mortgage payments went up, borrowers defaulted on their loans and AIG had to pay out everyone all at once, causing major losses. Chief of Staff Jim Wilkinson points out that the process went unregulated simply because everyone was enjoying making a lot of money.

The Feds bail out AIG, and Bernanke states that they will need a legitimate overall solution to their "nightmare," regardless of the fact that it is an election year. Paulson talks to his wife, fretting that banks are built on trust and that people will panic if they believe that their money is not safe. Geithner finally suggests merging the large multinational banks with commercial banks and securing "cheap government cash," but no one likes the idea, particularly as the real estate "toxic assets" are still a big problem. Jester's suggestion of "capital injections," or essentially making the government a stockholder in the banks, is shot down as "un-American," and they finally agree on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill. The senators are highly unimpressed with the three-page proposal, though Bernanke makes dire comparisons with the Great Depression and says immediate action is needed. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack attempts to make a deal with Mitsubishi and Goldman Sachs secures $5 billion from Buffet, and Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain causes further turmoil when he suspends his campaign to focus on the financial crisis. The TARP bill fails in the House, and the team reassesses, realizing that the capital injections are indeed necessary to "unfreeze the system." The revised TARP bill passes in October, and Paulson summons the nine biggest bank CEOs to a meeting with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman and informs them all that the Treasury will give them money, becoming temporary non-voting shareholders, and the banks will lend the money to its clients. The bankers are less than thrilled, but they agree to the deal, and Paulson can only hope that they will use the money responsibly this time. The film concludes by stating that unemployment and foreclosure rates rose in 2009, but the market stabilized by 2010 and the banks repaid the TARP money, with ten banks now holding 77% of all assets. This made-for-television film, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, examines the causes and aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The program begins with a montage of news reports and commentary on the growth and burst of the housing bubble and subsequent "mortgage meltdown," which caused investment bank Bear Stearns to be sold to JPMorgan Chase. Dick Fuld, chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, realizes that his bank too is in serious trouble, and calls Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, asking him to appeal to the famously wealthy investor Warren Buffet for help. Paulson meets with a team from the Treasury, who suggests a "break the glass" plan and states that Congress will not help. Buffet is unsure, and Fuld fumes that he is asking too high a price, refusing to panic and sell out for cheap. Paulson talks with Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and they debate looking to Bank of America for assistance. Despite Fuld's objections, Lehman President Joe Gregory is ousted and replaced with Bart McDade, and though they try to work with a Korean business, Fuld's meddling causes the deal to fail. Paulson refuses to sell out like Bear Stearns, but the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) both plummet, and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner tells Paulson that they will likely need the government's help after all.

During the Beijing Olympics, Paulson learns that the Chinese are also losing money because of Fannie and Freddie, and that Russia is suggesting that both countries dump their bonds and disassociate themselves from America's debt. Bernanke suggests that UK banking company Barclays is an option, but Paulson distrusts the British and prefers to work with Bank of America, if necessary. The government soon takes control of, or nationalizes, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and investment CEO Chris Flowers argues that Paulson is merely "posturing" by refusing to sell. American International Group (AIG) insurance calls Flowers and says they too have "run out of cash," and on Michele Davis' suggestion, Paulson leaks to the press that the government will not bail out Lehman Brothers under any circumstances. Geithner argues that Barclays cannot afford the risk, and Lehman dips to $4 a share. Paulson's advisor Dan Jester says that Bank of America wants a "Jamie Deal," or the same deal given to Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Paulson summons the heads of the world's prominent banks to a meeting and explains that Lehman needs a secondary buyer as well as Bank of America, and though the CEOs are reluctant to help a competitor, Paulson bluntly states that it is "their problem" because the entire financial world is at risk. Fuld calls to raise the price on Lehman, and John Thain of Merrill Lynch decides to call Bank of America for his own company, meaning that they will no longer assist Lehman. Upon learning of Thain's actions, Paulson tells Geithner to deal with Barclays after all. Dimon states that Lehman's unfavorable real estate holdings must be dealt with somehow, and offers a billion dollars of his own money, as does Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.

Geithner is relieved by the arrangement, but Barclays then says that they will need thirty days for shareholder approval, meaning that the deal cannot happen. Paulson and Fuld are both furious, and Paulson realizes that Lehman will have to formally declare bankruptcy, though Fuld refuses until his hand is forced by the board's vote. Paulson discovers that his decision to file for bankruptcy and not ask for the government's help is being perceived as "oddly reassuring" to the public, and at a press conference, he comments on the "moral hazard" of a bailout. He then learns that the Dow Jones has plummeted, however, and that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are in dire trouble. AIG's failure is also a "huge problem" because all of the banks bought their insurance from them, and the Treasury team scrambles to find a solution, learning that Europe is also feeling the effects of the crisis. Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric calls to say that he cannot fund his extremely important business if the banks fail, and AIG's shares crash to $2. The Treasury team revisits the idea of a bailout, and when Davis wonders what to tell the press, they recap the cause of the crisis: Wall Street made money through loans, and banks began loaning money to riskier "bottom-feeding" clients, also buying insurance in case of mortgage defaults. AIG took the extreme risk and made extra money from various fees, but when housing prices went down, mortgage payments went up, borrowers defaulted on their loans and AIG had to pay out everyone all at once, causing major losses. Chief of Staff Jim Wilkinson points out that the process went unregulated simply because everyone was enjoying making a lot of money.

The Feds bail out AIG, and Bernanke states that they will need a legitimate overall solution to their "nightmare," regardless of the fact that it is an election year. Paulson talks to his wife, fretting that banks are built on trust and that people will panic if they believe that their money is not safe. Geithner finally suggests merging the large multinational banks with commercial banks and securing "cheap government cash," but no one likes the idea, particularly as the real estate "toxic assets" are still a big problem. Jester's suggestion of "capital injections," or essentially making the government a stockholder in the banks, is shot down as "un-American," and they finally agree on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill. The senators are highly unimpressed with the three-page proposal, though Bernanke makes dire comparisons with the Great Depression and says immediate action is needed. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack attempts to make a deal with Mitsubishi and Goldman Sachs secures $5 billion from Buffet, and Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain causes further turmoil when he suspends his campaign to focus on the financial crisis. The TARP bill fails in the House, and the team reassesses, realizing that the capital injections are indeed necessary to "unfreeze the system." The revised TARP bill passes in October, and Paulson summons the nine biggest bank CEOs to a meeting with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman and informs them all that the Treasury will give them money, becoming temporary non-voting shareholders, and the banks will lend the money to its clients. The bankers are less than thrilled, but they agree to the deal, and Paulson can only hope that they will use the money responsibly this time. The film concludes by stating that unemployment and foreclosure rates rose in 2009, but the market stabilized by 2010 and the banks repaid the TARP money, with ten banks now holding 77% of all assets.

Details

  • NETWORK: HBO
  • DATE: May 23, 2011 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:38:39
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 107907
  • GENRE: Drama
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Drama
  • SERIES RUN: HBO - TV, 2011
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Paula Weinstein … Executive Producer
    • Jeffrey Levine … Executive Producer
    • Curtis Hanson … Executive Producer, Director
    • Carol Fenelon … Co-Executive Producer
    • Ezra Swerdlow … Producer
    • Andrew Ross Sorkin … Co-Producer, Based on the book by
    • Peter Gould … Co-Producer, Writer
    • Richard Baratta … Line Producer
    • Marcello Zarvos … Music by
    • Pete Anthony … Conductor
    • James Woods … Cast, Richard Fuld
    • John Heard … Cast, Joe Gregory
    • William Hurt … Cast, Henry Paulson
    • Erin Dilly … Cast, Christal West
    • Amy Carlson … Cast, Erin Callan
    • Topher Grace … Cast, Jim Wilkinson
    • Ayad Akhtar … Cast, Neel Kashkari
    • Cynthia Nixon … Cast, Michele Davis
    • Kathy Baker … Cast, Wendy Paulson
    • Edward Asner … Cast, Warren Buffett
    • Paul Giamatti … Cast, Ben Bernanke
    • Beau Baxter … Cast, Skip McGee
    • Ben Livingston … Cast, Investment Banker
    • Erin Burnett … Cast, Herself
    • Chance Kelly … Cast, Bart McDade
    • Chil Kong … Cast, Min Euoo Sung
    • Daniel K. Isaac … Cast, Translator
    • Billy Crudup … Cast, Timothy Geithner
    • James Saito … Cast, Chinese Official
    • Maria Bartiromo … Cast, Herself
    • Michael O'Keefe … Cast, Chris Flowers
    • Robert Hogan … Cast, Rodgin Cohen
    • Victor Slezak … Cast, Greg Curl
    • Chandra Thomas … Cast, Assistant
    • Tom Mason … Cast, Robert Willumstad
    • Peter Hermann … Cast, Christopher Cox
    • Joey Slotnick … Cast, Dan Jester
    • Bill Pullman … Cast, Jamie Dimon
    • Evan Handler … Cast, Lloyd Blankfein
    • Tony Shalhoub … Cast, John Mack
    • Matthew Modine … Cast, John Thain
    • Ajay Mehta … Cast, Vikram Pandit
    • David Faber … Cast, Himself
    • Laurence Lau … Cast, Greg Fleming
    • Josh Casaubon … Cast, Mid-Level Goldman Banker
    • Gregory Jones … Cast, Hector Sants
    • George Taylor … Cast, Sir Callum McCarthy
    • Kathleen Coslett … Cast, Board Secretary
    • Danny Darrow … Cast, Mr. Akers
    • Rob Evans … Cast, Sir Christopher
    • Rutanya Alda … Cast, Admiral Evans
    • Peter Benson … Cast, SEC Lawyer
    • Andrew Ross Sorkin … Cast, Reporter
    • Fiona Choi … Cast, Second Reporter
    • Laila Robins … Cast, Christine Lagarde
    • Tom Tammi … Cast, Jeffrey Immelt
    • Steve Liesman … Cast, Himself
    • Dan Hedaya … Cast, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts)
    • Steve Tom … Cast, Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut)
    • Jonathan Freeman … Cast, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama)
    • Bud Jones … Cast, Harry Reid
    • Jennifer Van Dyck … Cast, Ruth Porat
    • Les J.N. Mau … Cast, Gao Xiqing
    • Jill Dalton … Cast, Mack's Assistant
    • Beatrice Miller … Cast, Buffett's Great-Grandkid
    • Gia McKnight … Cast, Buffett's Great-Grandkid
    • Patricia Randell … Cast, Chairman Sheila Bair
    • Casey Biggs … Cast, Dick Kovacevich
    • Robert Vincent Smith … Cast, Ken Lewis
    • Joe Kernen … Cast, Himself