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This article is about the drama television movie. For the phrase in economics, see Too big to fail. Too Big to Fail Directed by Curtis Hanson Produced by Ezra Swerdlow Written by Peter Gould[1] Cinematography Kramer Morgenthau Editing by Jonathan Olive Country United States Language English Original channel HBO Films Release date May 23, 2011 (2011-05-23) Too Big to Fail is a television drama film in the United States broadcast on HBO on May 23, 2011.[2] It is based on the non-fiction book Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin. The TV film was directed by Curtis Hanson. Contents 1 Plot 2 Cast 3 Reception 4 References 5 External links Plot See also: Late-2000s financial crisis#Credit markets and the shadow banking system and Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Too Big to Fail chronicles the 2008 financial meltdown, focusing on the actions of then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson (William Hurt) to contain the unfolding catastrophe. Specifically, it focuses on the period of August 2008 to October 3, 2008, during which the stock price of Lehman Brothers declined precipitously as the company's large exposure to toxic housing assets became more and more apparent. Dick Fuld (James Woods), CEO of Lehman Brothers, is seemingly in denial of Lehman's toxic assets and refuses several deals to potentially save the company, believing the housing market will recover. Paulson attempts to arrange a private solution to the Lehman problem, and both Bank of America and Barclays express interest in Lehman's "good" assets. However, they want federal government loans to finance potential losses from Lehman's housing investments. Paulson wishes to avoid another government-sponsored purchase like Bear Stearns, fearing the encouragement of "moral hazard", and refuses. Bank of America decides to buy Merrill Lynch on the cheap instead, as Merrill was in a marginally better situation than Lehman, yet still desperately needing capitalization. Barclays was still willing to purchase a selection of Lehman assets, but the Financial Services Authority (the British regulators) made it impossible to close the deal in time. Lehman Brothers, acting under the encouragement of Paulson and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), prepared the declaration of bankruptcy on September 14, 2008. Reaction to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was positive at first. The stock market as a whole barely nudged, and approving editorials were written of the federal government refusing to bail out corporate mistakes. However, ripples of Lehman's counterparty risk soon spread throughout the financial system, as many of these debts would now need to be written off. AIG — which was not even a bank — had provided insurance to nearly everyone on their housing assets, and had priced this insurance very cheaply under the assumption it was impossible for all of the housing market to go bad at once, thus massively underpricing risk. AIG was already losing money it couldn't cover, and the fall of Lehman Brothers hastened its demise, as its creditors refused to lend even more money to AIG's collapsing portfolio. A collapse of AIG would imperil the entire world banking system, as banks find their hedges against a decline in housing not honored by a bankrupt AIG, setting off a chain reaction of bankruptcies. Paulson moves to have the government guarantee AIG's bad insurance, but the global economy is still under threat. As banks reassess their balance sheets and realize their liabilities are much worse than they thought, they realize they have far less cash to lend out, creating a credit crunch that starts affecting "Main Street", normal companies who had nothing to do with financial services. Ben Bernanke (Paul Giamatti), Chairman of the Federal Reserve, believes that the only thing that might calm the economy is if the federal government had a gigantic pile of cash ready to smooth over any further disruptions and to get the credit markets moving again, but that such an act would require legitimacy - an act of the United States Congress. Paulson is skeptical of the prospects of passing such legislation a mere two months before an election, and worries that the worst case scenario is Congress explicitly voting down such a tool. Bernanke notes the dire circumstances, and says Congress will act if they are as scared as he is. Paulson and his staff brainstorm over how best to use such money, should they get it. The plan is "cash for trash" - buy the "toxic" assets of questionable worth off the banks, which will allow the banks to stabilize at a known valuation. Direct capital injection is considered as well, but written off as a political non-starter - a bailout to Democrats, and nationalization to Republicans. Timothy Geithner (Billy Crudup), President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, attempts to arrange mergers between "strong" banks and "weak" banks to stabilize the situation. Geithner also seeks to end "investment banks," a model which failed, by merging any investment bank with normal depositor banks, bringing them under the regulation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Bernanke and Paulson lobby Congress, with Bernanke emphasizing that a lack of credit helped make the 1929 stock crash into the Great Depression, and that if Congress fails to act "we may not have an economy on Monday." The legislation looks likely to pass, but turbulence happens when John McCain suspends his campaign for president to join the negotiations - potentially restarting them from square 1. The vote moves forward regardless, but fails to pass the House after too many Republicans vote "no", causing an immediate drop in the Dow of 600 points. After a wave of panic and personal haranguing from President George W. Bush, the legislation passes on a second attempt, and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 is signed into law. Paulson and his staff now have the money, but find that valuing the toxic assets to buy will take two months minimum, and may still not be reliable, as the banks all wish to claim face value for them. As a result, they decide that the only way to get credit flowing again is direct capital injections after all. Furthermore, capital injections to only the weakest banks would be counterproductive - it would declare to the world which exact banks were "weak" and by how much, which could potentially just create a run on these banks and require even more of a bailout. With the help of FDIC chair Sheila Bair and the threat of an FDIC audit, Paulson informs all the remaining banks that they will be receiving mandatory capital injections in the form of non-voting government owned stock, and that they were all to use this money to get credit moving again. Cast Topher Grace as Jim Wilkinson Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke Billy Crudup as Timothy Geithner William Hurt as Henry Paulson James Woods as Dick Fuld Bill Pullman as Jamie Dimon Tony Shalhoub as John Mack Matthew Modine as John Thain Edward Asner as Warren Buffett Cynthia Nixon as Michele Davis Joey Slotnick as Dan Jester Michael O'Keefe as Chris Flowers Amy Carlson as Erin Callan Peter Hermann as Christopher Cox Dan Hedaya as Barney Frank Kathy Baker as Wendy Paulson Steve Tom as Chris Dodd Evan Handler as Lloyd Blankfein Ayad Akhtar as Neel Kashkari Andrew Ross Sorkin - cameo as a business journalist Reception The AV Club gave it a B rating.[3] References ^ Peter Gould ^ Too Big to Fail at IMDB ^ http://www.avclub.com/articles/too-big-to-fail,56421/ External links HBO Films: Too Big To Fail Too Big to Fail at the Internet Movie Database v · d · eFilms directed by Curtis Hanson 1970s Sweet Kill (1973) 1980s Losin' It (1983) · The Bedroom Window (1987) 1990s Bad Influence (1990) · The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) · The River Wild (1994) · L.A. Confidential (1997) 2000s Wonder Boys (2000) · 8 Mile (2002) · In Her Shoes (2005) · Lucky You (2007) 2010s Too Big to Fail (2011)