The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 triggered fears that a Depression-like economic free fall was fast developing. To head it off, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson helped arrange the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch merger and, a month later, pressured the nation's largest banks to take $125 billion of taxpayers' money. Featuring interviews with Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, FRONTLINE: BREAKING THE BANK examines those goings-on through the prism of Bank of America and also explores the consequences of the infusion of public capital into the private sphere.
The bets were huge and risky, billions of dollars on the housing market. Superbanks reaped billions of dollars, and gobbled up competitors. Then the bottom dropped out, massive losses on Wall Street nearly broke the banks and many are on the brink of failure. As the federal government contemplates what could become a massive nationalization of the industry, watch as FRONTLINE tells the inside story.