Friday, December 12, 2008

A Brief History of the Current Financial Crisis

Recently, so many topic threads running through my thoughts and conversations seem to lead back to the current financial crisis. While I'm not an economic expert and this doesn't directly fall under the umbrella of marketing, I wanted to share a few links to some of the things that I've been reading, looking at, and listening to in recent weeks. While you may find a couple of these articles or posts that have some political-spin roots associated with them, my purpose in including the link isn't so much a political one as a looking at good simplified explanations of some of the issues.

The first couple of links come from the NPR radio program This American Life. If you haven't heard this one before, you are in for a treat. Each week they pick a theme and explore it through a number of interesting interviews, stories, audio essays, and radio diaries. Earlier this year, they put together a show that attempted to explain the sub-prime mortgage crisis -- but in a typical' This American Life' approach, take you inside the industry to meet and understand the people, understand what their jobs were, and to try and understand who, if anyone, was knowingly responsible for the crisis. If you want a simple, easy-to-understand explanation of the sub-prime crisis -- with interviews from people ranging from those that worked directly with home-buyers to those on Wall street, this program is a must-listen. Here's the link to the page where you can listen to it or download the podcast:
355: The Giant Pool of Money
The next episode in the financial crisis story from This American Life was put together around the time of the Wall Street bailout. Same guys, this time providing an update and an explanation of a lot of financial terms that you'll hear in the discussions about all of this. Another excellent show:
365: Another Frightening Show About the Economy
They also have a blog that tracks the ongoing, day-to-day issues associated with the financial crisis, Also worth a look.

Another interesting article comes from the Conde Naste magazine Portfolio. This article was written by the Michael Lewis, author of the book Liar's Poker, a book about his experiences working on Wall Street back in the 1980s. The Portfolio article, The End of Wall Street's Boom, tracks through some background on the sub-prime, credit default swaps, and C.D.O.s or Collateralized Debt Obligations. This one is packed with food for thought.

Finally, moving into the political end of the spectrum, I'd point you to two posts from The Daily Kos, both from the author Devilstower.
Three Times is Enemy Action from Sep 21, 2008
This post provides a backgrounder on deregulation of the financial industry going back to the S&L Crisis of the 1980s, the Keating Five, etc.

Down the Republican Rabbit Hole from Nov 16, 2008
This is a fun piece targeting some attempts to point blame for the financial crisis on Democrats and to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Like many of the other pieces that I've referenced, this one does a nice job of distilling the architecture of these financial instruments of destruction into a super-simple, plain English explanation that almost works like an elevator pitch.
I know that there's a lot to read and to listen to here, but I've found all these worth forwarding. They also touch on some other aspects of our role in business that I hope to pick up in a future post.

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