Published — September 14, 2009 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

One year later: A meltdown retrospective


Today marks a year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. As President Obama delivers a major speech on Wall Street saying he is determined to prevent a repeat of the crisis that nearly brought down the global financial system, the Center looks back at its year of covering the meltdown.

Following the collapse of Lehman, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scrambled to avoid further financial failures. The government poured billions into banks, investment funds, and insurance companies, through the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

As the Center documented in our landmark report, Who’s Behind the Financial Meltdown, many of the lenders who received TARP funds were originators of the very subprime loans that devastated the American economy. Through an analysis of 7.5 million mortgage records from 2005-2007, the Center identified the Top 25 subprime lenders in the country — the companies making the high cost loans that were aggressively marketed, bundled into securities, and sold on Wall Street, in a game of financial hot potato that came to a crashing end a year ago.

The findings of the Center’s report were striking. At least 21 of the top 25 subprime lenders were financed by banks that received bailout money — through direct ownership, credit agreements, or huge purchases of loans for securitization. Eleven of the lenders have made payments to settle claims of widespread lending abuses. Four of those have received bank bailout funds, including American International Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc.

The Center also found that legislators and regulators should have seen this coming. A full decade before the crash, fair lending advocates and lawyers were warning that subprime loans would not just lead to foreclosure, and would not just harm communities. They told Congress, in repeated hearings, that unregulated subprime loans would destroy retirement funds and threaten the stability of the American economy. As we now know, those warnings were largely ignored.

Following the May 2009 release of the Financial Meltdown report, the Center explored the role of non-bank mortgage companies in the crisis. An analysis of federal mortgage data found that fully half of all subprime loans were made by non-bank mortgage companies, subject to little oversight and regulation. Further reporting uncovered that these nonbank lenders were not required to file reports of suspicious activities to the federal government, unlike almost every other player in the financial services realm, from banks to casinos to check cashers. Shortly after the Center’s story on the reporting gap, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network announced proposed changes that would require nonbank lenders to file the so-called Suspicious Activity Reports.

The Center has also covered the administration efforts to slow the tsunami of foreclosures still inundating American cities from Philadelphia to Riverside, Calif. Our recent report on the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, found that many big subprime players stand to collect billions for their efforts to modify bad mortgages. Of the 25 top participants in the $75 billion program, at least 21 were heavily involved in the subprime lending industry. Most specialized in servicing subprime loans, but several both serviced and originated the loans. In other words, companies that made bad subprime loans in the first place could collect up to $21 billion for their attempts to fix the foreclosure problem.

Foreclosures remain high. According to RealtyTrac data, there were 1.9 million foreclosure filings in the first six months of this year. That means in the last six months one in every 84 homes had at least one foreclosure filing. In the first quarter of 2009, 7.2 percent of mortgages were seriously delinquent, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association survey, compared with 6.3 percent in the previous quarter and 1.9 percent in the first three months of 2005.

Subprime mortgages are failing at a far higher rate than mortgages in general.

More than 36 percent of adjustable-rate, subprime mortgages were considered seriously delinquent in the first quarter of 2009, compared with 33.8 percent the previous quarter and 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2005.

And one year on from the collapse of Lehman, many of the loans that crippled the financial system could still be made today. High-cost, no documentation subprime loans are still perfectly legal. But that could be changing, as the proposal for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and other re-regulation plans move forward. The Center will be keeping a close eye on the financial industry in the months to come.

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install itunes on windows 7Bob FrankstonLinda GordonET69Jello Beyonce Recent comment authors
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sam fetters
sam fetters

What do AT&T, Verizon and Crown Castle International Corp have in common? The largest institutional shareholders of each includes firms like: Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street (the “Big Three”), Invesco, Fidelity (FMR), JP Morgan, Wellington Management, Geode, T Rowe Price, Bank of America, and other of the largest money-management and investment firms, whom operate collaboratively (even comprising the largest shareholders of each other), forming virtual monopolies amongst the largest “competing” corporations, in most every single industry, via large share holdings. (source = These are the same firms whom also largely own the third largest telecom, T-Mobile. The own the largest… Read more »

Jello Beyonce
Jello Beyonce

I’ve a theory that the supposed “Trade Wars” and “sanctions” and political/military strife going on between the U.S., China, Russia, etc. are merely distractions, serving to divert attention away from the growing authoritarianism and Oligarchic control spreading across the globe. “Nationalism” is being used as a propagandist covert means of continued increasing Globalism. As this article states: “A Russian woman stood up to speak at one of these public meetings, and she said that when she lived in Russia, the government slam dunked her and she had no say,” King said. “Now she lives in the United States of America,… Read more »


Marx was right about capitalism . Capital gets more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. There is no way out of this greed. We need socialism!

Linda Gordon
Linda Gordon

5g is a kill grid. The depployment of this weapon is an act of terroism genocide and ecocide. The marketers need to be jailed as terrorists.

Bob Frankston

The real issue with 5G is that it’s an attempt to roll back the Internet and return to the telecom of the 1970s when the phone company controlled all.

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I have read the post and it is really helpful as I have got to know about the 5G wireless cities which are accepting the technology and other cities which are rejecting it.