This American Life Episode Transcript
The Giant Pool of Money
[Ambient sound of piano playing and crowd murmur]
So Adam, where are we?
I recorded this at the Ritz Carlton in lower Manhattan. It’s a black
tie dinner, just a few weeks ago.
And you, by the way, are NPR’s International Business and Economics
That’s right. I was there for my job. They’re giving out awards for
all these financial securities, including the one that nearly brought down the global
financial system. You know, the whole sub prime mortgage crisis.
Jim Finkel: This guy is a legend. He’s a granddaddy of our industry.
I’m sitting at this dinner with Jim Finkel. He’s kind of nervous
because he’s up for CDO of the Year for the CDO he created, Monterrey. Now, the
CDO, that’s what we’re talking about, that’s the financial instrument that was central
to this global credit crisis we’re in.
And they’re giving awards for this? These guys are giving each other
awards for doing that?
Let me just say, they’re aware that there’s a certain irony, giving
awards to the instrument that almost destroyed the world’s economy. They did
consider canceling this year but it’s been a really tough year, it’s been really gloomy
Jim Finkel: Honestly, I know this sounds.
..I was happy to see there were no
major suicides, people weren’t jumping off bridges, there weren’t personal
That same week, a few days earlier across the river in Brooklyn, I
went to a completely different kind of gathering. It was not black tie. It was put on
by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. It was people on the
opposite side of the mortgage crisis. People facing foreclosure, trying to figure out
how to keep their homes. I met this one guy Richard, he’s a Marine. This big guy,
over six feet tall. When he came back from Iraq a few years ago he bought one of
these fancy new mortgages with an adjustable rate. Recently his rate reset. It’s gone
up by more than $2,000 a month and he’s fallen behind on his payments.
Richard Campbell: At one point, my son had $7,000 in a CD and I had to
break it. That really hurt. I was saving that money for his college. I put
$2,000 back but it’s like you can’t have a future. They put you in a situation
where after a while you’re going to fail. It’s hard.