The Cockburns skillfully uncover the truth behind the headlines, shining a light on the negligent regulators, the colluding Fed, the unscrupulous ratings agencies, the mercenary banks, the venal mortgage lenders, and the long daisy-chain of opportunists and fraudsters who gorged themselves on the spoils from the biggest swindle in history.
American Casino explains the most complex aspects of the financial collapse in terms that everyone can understand. The movie is an informal tutorial on Wall Streets innovations, including a brief rundown on collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) and credit default swaps (CDSs). These are the notorious debt-instruments which clogged the credit markets and sent stocks into a nosedive. The Cockburns also interview a number of people who played a part in the market crash. We get a glimpse of the ratings agency executive who caved in to the investment banks and gave them the triple A ratings they wanted, but didnt deserve. Theres a brief segment with a mortgage lender who routinely filed false income statements which allowed unqualified loan applicants to be approved. Theres also a clip of a financial technician who packed B-rated junk into CDOs that were offloaded to gullible Korean investors. Whats most disturbing about American Casino, is that it shows how normal people eagerly participated in a profit-skimming operation that was based on repackaging and peddling dodgy loans to credulous investors. These people knew what they were doing was wrong, but did it anyway.