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Plunder: The Crime of Our Time is a hard-hitting investigative film by Danny Schechter. The "News Dissector" explores how the financial crisis was built on a foundation of criminal activity uncovering the connection between the collapse of the housing market and the economic catastrophe that followed.
The film opens with the conviction of Ponzi King Bernie Madoff, whose acknowledged criminality drove a $65 billion dollar pyramid scheme. It argues that the wrong doing committed by a few individuals distracts from the real story, implicating the best-known institutions that financed and profited from fraudulent sub prime lending. This connection is now being investigated by the FBI as part of a probe into what it calls a "fraud epidemic."
PLUNDER shows how these firms created special securities to repackage and resell these dubious loans after they were re-rated as Triple A. These firms then bet against many of these toxic assets with credit default swaps and other insurance scams. By leveraging these investments, they recklessly put trillions of dollars and the world economy at risk.
To tell this story Schechter speaks with bankers involved in these activities, respected economists, insider experts, top journalists, including Paul Krugman, and even a convicted white-collar criminal, Sam Antar, who blows the whistle on intentionally dishonest practices.
The film displays how this pyramid of fraud led to the massive foreclosures affecting 10 million homeowners, rising unemployment, economic collapse and increasing hardships worldwide. It connects the dots identifying who the victims and beneficiaries are in what "may well turn out to be the greatest nonviolent crime against humanity in history," according to an ex investment banker. Graydon Carter, the Editor of Vanity Fair is quoted as saying, "in other words never before have so few done so much to so many." The film details the frustration of homeowners, who have become the hardest hit victims, as they express their anger in protest against the CEOs of these institutions.
Plunder: the Crime of Our Time looks into how the crisis developed, from the mysterious collapse of Bear Stearns, an 85-year-old investment firm that disappeared in a week to the shadowy world of trillion dollar hedge funds. Insiders who work in the industry, and know it well, tell both of these stories. Plunder also shows how hastily arranged government bailouts did not revive the economy and may have lost billions.
The film also delves into the complicity of the major media outlets, which failed to sound the alarm or investigate wrong doers. A top financial journalist and media analyst as well as a financier explain how the business media became embedded in the culture it was covering, similar to embedded reporters in Iraq.
In its conclusion, Plunder offers facts and details about events that have affected billions of people and lost trillions of dollars. The film travels to Paris to examine how this crisis has gone global. Ultimately, it calls for a full investigation and structural reforms of financial institutions to insure accountability by the white-collar perpetrators who profited from the misery of their victims. It's a call to action: if action is not taken real lessons will not be learned or applied and another crisis may be looming as the underlying problems are still there.
The "News Dissector" spent a year and half on this investigation, following up on his book, "Plunder," that predicted the crisis and an earlier film, "In Debt We Trust," that explored America's rising credit burden at the time. This former CNN and Emmy award winning ABC News producer was labeled an "alarmist" and his initial finding was greeted with denial. This early work is now seen as prophetic despite understating the full impact of an ongoing crisis that has not yet ended.
"This is a story that must be told if economic justice is to have any meaning," says Schechter, "Plunder demands a full investigation into who is responsible for the crisis and an appropriate punishment - a "jail out" - for the wrongdoers at a time when the debate about the crisis and what to do about it is treated so superficially on every media outlet. This crisis is not about the unintentional mistakes of a greedy few but a crime that effects us all.'
Plunder is directed by Danny Schechter for Globalvision, Inc., with Ray Nowosielski, as the producer.