The Con: Why Wall Street and Government Failed Us and Why We Haven’t Stopped Them

Nell Minow
7 min readAug 15, 2020

I highly recommend the new series The Con, an exceptionally thorough and compelling history of the 2008 financial meltdown. In an interview, series director/co-writer Eric Vaughan talked about making the extremely complicated transactions accessible to the interested-but-not expert viewer, who he wanted to interview but could not get, and his opinion on the question that still rankles: why none of the senior executives involved went to prison. To view the series:

Your series begins with one tragic story, Addie Polk, a 90-year-old woman from Akron, Ohio who shot herself at age 90 as sheriff’s deputies tried to evict her from her foreclosed home. The rest of the episodes are all about the layers and layers that led to all of the Addies who lost their homes and their pension money. There are so many layers and so many people — ultimately is everyone at fault? Is that why it has been so difficult to fix?

Yes, the title of the first episode is “Who killed Addie Polk?” And I wanted that to be the key question because so much had to happen for her situation to occur. Ultimately, if you follow the trail of perverse incentives all the way up, it does narrow it to a small group of people.

I mean, when we’re talking on the non-bank lenders side, the show goes all the way up to Angelo Mozilo, right? If you follow the thread just through the quote innovation unquote of subprime lending, then you can go to Roland Arnall. If you’re following it through, on the banking side, I mean, whoever came up with the idea of giving warehouse lines of credit and creating incentives within those warehouse lines, in order to ensure that predatory lending would occur, well, then you can take that straight up to the CEO of whatever bank.

And then beyond that, you have ratings agencies and government regulatory regimes and people within law enforcement who stopped meaningful investigations from occurring. So, it is a wide list of people who I would lay the blame for, but…

Nell Minow

Movie critic, corporate critic and shareholder advocate, Contributing Editor at @ebertvoices plus @moviemom, and #corpgov #movies and editor at @miniverpress