Breaking The Bank (DVD)

This DVD may just be one of the most important that PBS has put out, as it looks to delve into the causes and explanations for why the banks rapidly spun out of control in the last few years of the oughts. Specifically, this documentary centers around the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America. Where a set of facts about the banking crisis would have been essentially all that is needed to provide a compelling documentary about what happened, a number of interviews and descriptions of players both in and around the crisis provide a little more of the metric used to make the decisions that seem so wrong a year out.

Of particular note in this coverage would have to be the work done in showcasing treasury secretary Henry Paulson and the line of decisions that lead to the doomed acquisition. Other prominent players, such as John Thain (former chief of Merrill Lynch) and Kenneth Lewis (Bank of America) are given equal time. The narrative works its way through the months leading up to the acquisition, really illuminating the sense that all involved – save for Paulson – felt that the acquisition was a bad idea. This is due to the fact that Merrill Lynch was hemorrhaging money, Bank of America was not large enough to weather the purchase, and that both firms combined represented a large enough force to create a serious economic problem that is still haunting the world economy a year after the initial event occurred.

The documentary itself is very informative and is done at a level that anyone can properly understand and appreciate what happened. I would have liked to see some more detailed description about how differential events effect the stability of the banking community, but believe that the Bank of America / Merrill Lynch / Treasure story needed proper explanation. A must-buy for anyone that wants to get an idea of what happened in one of the most important series of events to happen during this decade.

Rating: 8.4/10

Breaking The Bank (DVD) /2009 PBS / 60 Minutes / http://www.shoppbs.org

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