What surprised you the most in the movie’s portrayal of the impending financial collapse?
It was surprising to me that some people, portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale and others, actually got to the bottom of some of those mortgage products—figuring out that they were being fundamentally mispriced—when so many others didn’t. We had lots of quants—quantitative experts—and very smart people at the banks who presumably didn’t see it, or somehow it didn’t reach the right people. Alan Greenspan didn’t see it, Ben Bernanke didn’t see it, and neither did the head of the Treasury—super smart people who did have their fingers on the pulse of a million different things. Working at my bank, I talked to some of those high level people towards the end of 2007, when the first real cracks were happening in subprime loans, but it hadn’t spread to everything else yet and the big crisis came a year later. They really thought, Oh it’s just a subprime thing; it’ll be contained. So a big part of the debate about the recession—and this is simplifying a bit—is whether the banks were stupid or criminal in this. I’ll go on the side of stupid, not criminal. The fact that an organization can act stupidly even though it has a bunch of smart people in it, that’s interesting.
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