The Financial Crisis of 2008

Human Weakness Amplified by Technology & Ingenuity

// This paper was submitted as my final project in a Professional Communications course. It is long (11 pages, 5400 words) and on the dense side: be warned. It needs another few hours of polishing and rewriting, but that’s not going to happen… better to have posted and lost than never have posted.//

1 Introduction

Systems failures are often a combination of physical failures and human failures. A building collapse or airplane crash could both be the result of an oversight, such as infrequent or inadequate engineering checks, and a physical defect, such as an unforeseeable chemical reaction or material defect. This is because many systems are a marriage between human organization and the physical realities of the material world. However, some systems operate almost entirely within the logical world – they are constructs of the collective societal mind and depend on human decision and effort for their structure and stability. The global financial system is one of these. Our mechanisms for storing and trading money and related goods and services are incredibly complex – and in the digital age are often ethereal, intangible concepts rather than concrete movements of hard objects. Financial systems are sets of rules and agreements between parties that have emergent properties and behaviors in aggregate.

This report discusses the financial crises of 2008, specifically in the United States. The focus will be on the human factor: the intentional actions that formed conditions in which human decisions brought about a meltdown of credit, real estate and investment infrastructure, and the human attempts to rectify the damage. We begin with a history of money and its transformation over the last one and half century from shiny rocks to paper notes to digital bits in the postmodern era. An examination of bank mortgages, mortgage collateralization, and the consumer credit “crunch” follows. Then we pull these themes together to chronicle the financial meltdown of 2008 and explain the role they all play – together with a discussion on banking deregulation’s hand in the action. Finally, billions of dollars in government (taxpayer) backed “bailout” relief funds were given to financial institutions to prevent them from bankruptcy during the crisis. We end by discussing the human side of the bailouts; who got the money and what they did with it; how financial institutions and governments vowed to safeguard against a repeat performance; and what they actually did instead.

2 A History of Money and Mortgages

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, ideal money should have six characteristics (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, n.d.):

  • Durability – ruggedness against physical damage and disrepair.
  • Portability – ease ­­­of transport in any quantity.
  • Divisibility – decomposition into smaller denominations, with the same total value.
  • Uniformity – x value of money should look and weigh the same throughout a single currency.
  • Limited supply – this retains the value of a piece of money, and prevents inflation.
  • Acceptability – the money should be readily recognized throughout a certain area of trade and commerce.

Throughout history, money has taken various forms in various cultures, including livestock, shells, handcrafts, and various objects. Most of these monies presented some but not all of the above characteristics. However, precious metals have been a popular currency for thousands of years (World Gold Council, n.d.), and gold especially holds each of the noted characteristics. People held gold and silver as being intrinsically valuable and desirable – commerce was simple and to the point. Shiny gold in exchange for something else of value (perhaps food, weapons, tools, or livestock), and vice versa. In human terms, hard work produced hard assets with hard value. There were no shortcuts.

It is not until 1690 that paper money is used in North America, when Massachusetts issued war notes to pay soldiers (Davies, 2002). Of significance is that this paper had no intrinsic value beyond itself – that is, it was not redeemable for or backed by precious metal and was entirely dependent on the strength and continuing existence of the Colony. The touch of human folly shows its first marks here. From this point onward, there was a remarkable uptake in paper money printing. Some money was backed and redeemable in gold coin or bullion, but the vast majority of it was backed only by the market’s confidence in the issuer. By far the most common reason money was printed was to finance wars: governments saw huge opportunity to trade worthless money for tangible assets like soldiers’ labour, guns, ammunition, etc. instead of having to trade hard money for these things. Over and over, the cycle repeated of printed money becoming worthless in the hands of colonists while the governments had made off more or less financially uninjured and financing war after war. Things came to a head when the English Parliament banned American colonies from printing paper money in 1764. Of course, the USA seceded from England shortly afterward in 1776 and continued to print paper money – however this was backed by the US State Governments’ gold bullion reserves and was therefore hardy against loss of value and a general bankruptcy of the population.  A dollar bill could be traded for a set weight of gold coin from the state treasury by any citizen, and this kept the value of paper money under control. If the government wanted to spend money on, say, war efforts or infrastructure, or if the government wanted to lend money to other governments or corporations or even its citizenry, the money that drives all of this must be represented by a chunk of gold in a Treasury storeroom somewhere. Any time someone wanted to redeem a US dollar for gold, they had the right to demand that gold immediately. This system prevented inflation, stabilized the currency, and kept government debt in check. This set amount of gold per dollar was known as the Gold Standard, and was kept until 1913, when the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) was established.

The long and short of the Fed was that the US Government officially revoked the Gold Standard of their currency and invested full-scale in “fiat” money – paper money that was once again worth only as much as someone else thinks it’s worth: a US dollar could not be redeemed for gold coin and was not backed by any gold or precious metal reserve. This decision has long been rife with debate over the government’s agenda in forming a central bank owned by private banking institutions, but in the interest of this paper’s focus on the human factor: a central bank owned by private banks with the power to control an entire nation’s money supply with very little Legislative oversight can easily be seen as the product of human greed and lust for control. As a lender of last resort that also prints the national currency, the Fed ensures that private banks can take huge risks and execute dangerous banking practices while knowing that if everything goes belly-up and bankruptcy looms, they can be bailed out at very low cost to the banking system itself. A fiat currency also enabled the government to print more money when it wants to spend on, say war efforts or campaign promises of spending, or lending money out to generate revenue. Since then, every nation on earth has switched from a Gold Standard to fiat money. A currency is only worth as much as the confidence its citizens place in it, and the ability to print unbacked money causes inflation and a drop in the overall value of that currency. Simply, fiat money allows individuals in government and finance to cheat the rules of sound monetary policy in order to create an illusion of wealth and grab whatever it is the money is paying for – but in the long term devalue the currency and mess with the entire financial infrastructure of interest rates, etc. etc.

In the post-modern digital age, money is no longer a physical entity but is stored as digital information in banking, governmental and financial institutions. In fact, according to Niall Ferguson, physical cash and coin accounts for only 11 percent of the total money supply of the US (Ferguson, 2008). The rest is digital! Today, money need not be shipped in flotillas overseas on month-long voyages (as was the case with gold), nor packaged in safe crates and accompanied with armed guards (as is the case with bank notes), but rather billions of dollars may be transported thousands of kilometers in a fraction of a second, over electronic networks. Further, storing this money requires only a small, secure datacenter – no small feat but a far cry from Fort Knox to house gold bullion.

It is clear that the trend throughout history has been to make money easier to produce, transport, devalue and modify. This makes it easier to be financially creative and reap the rewards – but as we’ll see, the risk of building a house of cards comes with the ephemeralization of money. When you don’t have to dig rocks out of the ground and melt them down using high heat and intense effort just to get something of value, but can instead convince people that numbers in a database are worth just as much, you have opened Pandora’s Box. Financial creativity has blossomed in this digital, fiat currency environment, as we’ll see.

2.1 What is the Mortgage Market? What is a C.D.O.?

A mortgage is simply a cash loan to buy a house, against which the house itself is collateral. For a long time mortgages have remained this simple. Government loan insurance is offered to citizens, contingent on down payment size and customer creditworthiness, and banks require this insurance to issue a mortgage. Furthermore, bank loan officers ensure that each bank’s more specific criteria for mortgage eligibility is met by the customer: banks have a strong financial incentive to ensure that a customer is able to pay back their mortgage, and they produce actuarial statistics that banks can use to keep mortgage defaults within an acceptable range. According to the Federal Reserve’s “Charge-off and Delinquency Rates” published data set (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2015), the average default rate of residential mortgages granted by top 100 banks in the USA between Q1 1985 and Q4 2007 was 2.37%. In human terms, loan officers were responsible for the creditworthiness of their customers because the bank would be left with losses if defaults increased.

A key term to know is a “sub-prime mortgage”. A mortgage that garners a higher interest is offered to a borrower with a weak credit record, and the higher interest rate is meant to (in the aggregate of many sub-prime mortgages) offset the risk of some of those loans defaulting. In human terms: higher risk, higher return. We will return to the subject of mortgages after explaining three related ideas.

In 1999, the US Congress repealed the Glass-Stegall act of 1933, which prohibited depository & loan banks (the classic image of a bank that holds depositors money and lends some of that money out to other in the form of mortgages or lines of credit) from participating in investment banking (using investors’ money to take positions in marketed investment vehicles in an attempt to either offset risk or capture return). With the repealing of the Act, banks were now free to use depositors’ money to invest in risky markets in an attempt to capture return. Banks and financial corporations had long lobbied for the Act to be repealed (we will shortly learn why). Again, the theme is higher risk, higher return.

In the US, there are ratings agencies that identify and publish the creditworthiness of loans, securities, assets, insurance, equities, etc. across huge swaths of the financial markets including municipal bonds, residential and commercial mortgages, corporate stock and bonds, insurance products, financial derivatives, and so on. It is important to recognize that these agencies, such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, are entirely private and paid to issue ratings by the owners of those products being rated. The potential for conflicts of interest and “the human factor” distorting these ratings cannot possibly be overstated. Kickbacks for high ratings, anyone?

According to the McLean and Nocera (McLean, 2011), sometime in the early 2000s, there was an increase in popularity among investment banks of a certain investment vehicle named a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO). Simply, a CDO is a collection of various securities, loans, stocks, equities, and goods (importantly, these assets are all of different creditworthiness or “rating”) that are homogenized into a sort of mutual fund. This fund is then given a single rating of creditworthiness meant to capture the aggregate risk and return of all of its components. Then shares of this new CDO are chopped up and sold to investors. A CDO takes high, medium, and low risk assets and washes them together to make a single asset that is then sold off to others in order to offload the risk of the underlying assets. Notice that risk aversion (e.g. our loan officer) is replaced by risk transfer to another party. This is an important milestone. Humans get to take risky actions and give the risk away.

What does this have to do with mortgages? A popular type of CDO is a mortgage backed security (MBS). Since 1999, a depository bank can melt a bunch of different mortgages (some of which may be higher risk of default) together into a homogeneous CDO which is given a single risk rating (Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission of the United States of America, 2011). Remember the sub-prime mortgages? Up until the early 21st Century, sub-prime mortgages were not very common because they were high risk loans and the banks had to sit on them and hope they didn’t default. The bank would rather make slightly less return on safer mortgages and sleep easily knowing their borrowers are less likely to default. However, as alluded to above, this all changed in dramatic fashion when investment banks and investment firms began buying up depository banks’ sub-prime loans, bidding the price of these mortgages up and up (see sidebar). The investment banks were immediately turning these junky, high-risk sub-prime mortgages with low credit ratings into Mortgage-Backed Security CDOs which received excellent credit ratings because of a perceived diversification of risk because of a small amount of excellent mortgages in the basket. Now that the MBS is rated highly, it is much more marketable and the investment firm can sell it for a healthy profit, dumping the default risk of the underlying mortgages to the buyer. It is known that many of the companies selling the CDOs were very much aware they were dumping garbage: Internal UBS emails and Deutsche Bank’s top global investor all referred to their CDOs offered to consumers as ‘crap’ (United States Senate, 2011, p. 10). Talk about the human factor.

Here’s the key: this crazy series of steps has completely removed the issuing banks’ incentive to ensure its borrowers will not default on their loan – the bank is free to issue tons of sub-prime mortgages, turn around and sell them for a tidy lump sum profit and never worry about defaults. The firms buying the crappy mortgages are also reselling them (however, they get some help from the magic rating companies in marketing the value of these loans) for a tidy profit. I hope I don’t have to spell out the human factor in all of this: Legislators tear down a firewall between institutions à banks give mortgages to people who can’t repay them à banks sell these mortgages to firms at comfortable profit  à firms launder these high risk mortgages into highly-rated (many were AAA, the highest rating) CDOs à the firms sell them to pension funds and other investments firms. All along the way, inappropriately risky decisions are rewarded and the risk is passed down the line. The net result is that sub-prime mortgages became much more commonplace, and were almost always repackaged into a MBS or other CDO (Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission of the United States of America, 2011). In fact by 2006, 71% of MBS composition was sub-prime loans.

2.2 Low, Low Interest Rates | AND | Credit Default Swap Meet

Two other developments set the stage for a financial meltdown on the horizon. The first is fairly simple: in the early 1980’s and again in 2000, the US stock market experienced gigantic boom and busts that destroyed thousands of companies and wiped billions of dollars in capital off the books. The Fed’s response was to cut interest rates in the hope of stimulating a recovery in economic growth (See Figure 1).

Graph A

Figure 1: Interest Rates from 1975 to 2010

Here we see the human factor at play: Fed economists use models and predictions to set policy in the hopes that the outcome will be positive. The effect of this was to significantly lower the cost of home ownership. Combined with the growth of an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), which makes mortgages cheaper when interest rates are down but proportionally more expensive if rates rise, buyers flooded the housing market in the United States. Home prices rose nationwide 9.8% annually between 2000 and 2003, and much higher in hot markets like California and Florida (See Figure 2).

Graph B

Figure 2: US Home Prices from 1976 to 2010

With home ownership at 69% nationwide, homeowners took further advantage of home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and second mortgages in order to increase their cash on hand. Sadly, the human greed for easy money and material excess led to 45% of homeowners using that money for electronics and vacations, and 24% purchased cars, investments, clothing or jewelry. Only 31% used it for home improvements, medical bills, and the like. (Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission of the United States of America, pp. 86-88). In short, when 2008 rolled around, homeowners has huge amounts of debt at low interest rates and had spent the resultant cash on liabilities. Their homes were suddenly worth double what they were a decade ago. Meanwhile their personal saving rate dropped from 5.2% to a measly 1.4%, and they were in poor condition to weather any disturbance in their all-to-thin positions. The theme of this paragraph is the basic human desire to get more for less.

The final series of financial decisions is complex, but we shall endeavor to distill the essence. Credit Default Swaps (CDS) are a type of “derivative” instrument – they have indirect value that is dependent on (or derived from) of the value of another asset or instrument. A CDS is similar to a CDO in that it takes advantage of a ratings agency to make a risky asset appear more trustworthy. Insurance companies like AIG provided something akin to debt insurance to investors through a CDS. For example:

Pension Fund Z wants to buy high-return stock in Corporation X but the stock has been rated too poor for the pension fund’s chartered risk appetite, and therefore the fund may not purchase any. However, AIG, who is rated AAA top creditworthiness, offers an insurance agreement (the Credit Default Swap) to Pension Fund Z on the entire desired purchase of stocks in exchange for a one or two percent of the return on said stock. If Corporation X goes bankrupt or insolvent, AIG promises to pay the full amount outstanding to Pension Fund Z. The result is a AAA rating on the stock purchase as long as the CDS is part of the transaction, and the Fund is now able to purchase stock.

Pension Fund Z wants to buy high-return stock in Corporation X but the stock has been rated too poor for the pension fund’s chartered risk appetite, and therefore the fund may not purchase any. However, AIG, who is rated AAA top creditworthiness, offers an insurance agreement (the Credit Default Swap) to Pension Fund Z on the entire desired purchase of stocks in exchange for a one or two percent of the return on said stock. If Corporation X goes bankrupt or insolvent, AIG promises to pay the full amount outstanding to Pension Fund Z. The result is a AAA rating on the stock purchase as long as the CDS is part of the transaction, and the Fund is now able to purchase stock.

On the surface this seems fine, but there are a few important facts:

In 2000, the US Congress enacted legislation that banned any and all regulation of “over-the-counter derivatives”, one of which is the Credit Default Swap. This means that equities and financial instruments that are subject to rigorous regulation and safeguards can form the basis for derivative instruments that are completely unregulated, with no oversight or safety checks for investors and the general economy. This is a great time to invoke the spectre of the revolving door between industry and financial regulators. There are too many examples to cite, but it is general knowledge that a huge number of regulatory positions are filled by former industry executives, and vice versa. The potential for conflicts of interest between the public good and private aspirations is astronomical – the financial lobby is strong and powerful, and a direct result of their efforts is indeed the 2000 decision to prevent derivatives regulation. The human factor plays its part.

Secondly, because CDSs are not regulated, the providers (AIG in our example) are not required to set aside some percentage of all the insured capital in case of bankruptcies that require a lump sum payout as per their CDS agreements. The value of the CDS market was astronomical before the meltdown – AIG alone had sold $79 billion – and the kicker was that not only were CDS primarily sold to cover ‘crappy’ MBSs (danger, danger!), they were instrumental in creating ‘synthetic’ CDOs which were bets on the performances of MBSs, and they were used to layer multiple bets on a single MBS. Layer upon layer of fictitious assets were magically created and sold to greedy investors. Goldman Sachs alone sold $75 billion in synthetic CDOs from 2004 to 2007, and neither they nor any other of the derivatives players had a fraction of their obligations in cash.

And so, a picture is painted of a financial system built on sand, a housing market way overheated with rock-bottom interest rates, and thousands of mortgages ready to be defaulted on in the case of the slightest breeze of rising interest rates. And we see that credit ratings agencies have enabled high risk, low quality assets to be repackaged and sold as AAA solid-gold investments.

3 What happened in 2008?

Here we arrive at the inflection point. In 2008, every single factor illustrated in the preceding sections came together in a valiant attempt at total financial ruin. The transformation of money into a logical construct allowed for financial sleight-of-hand and the creation of a teetering house of cards built on empty promises and expanding debt loads. There were many events that began in 2008 and carried on through the next few years, and it would be pointless to describe them all here. I believe the overriding human factor driving all these events is evident in the story thus far, and the majority of its work was long complete by the time the house of cards collapsed; so a brief concatenation of the highlights follows, adapted from the FCIC’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Report of 2011:

  1. The price of homes peaked and declined, leaving many homeowners who had taken a mortgage, second mortgage, or a HELOC, with more debt than equity in their home. When home prices collapsed, many homeowners could not refinance or pay down their mortgage, and so defaulted. From 2008-2010, the overall delinquency rate on residential mortgages was 9.23% (Recall that from 1985-2007 it was 2.37%). The result was a collapse of housing prices and a shockwave throughout the MBS and CDO pipeline.
  1. Collapsing mortgage-lending standards and the mortgage securitization pipeline had lit and spread the flame of contagion and crisis. The amount of CDOs, CDOs on CDOs, and synthetic CDOs was so massive, sub-prime mortgages were so rampant, and the issuers had so little skin in the game, that when borrowers began to default on their mortgages (as they were bound to, having poor credit and never truly qualified to hold mortgages in the first place), the “losses – amplified by derivatives – rushed through the mortgage pipeline.” Investment banks were left with billions of dollars in losses from bets they’d placed through CDOs and CDSs without having capital reserves to cover those losses. A complete lack of regulatory oversight left these banks with no safety.
  1. The interconnected web of debt obligations in the form of derivatives was so vast, and it so drastically impacted many huge institutions (private and public), the US Government was thrust into a dilemma: Risk a catastrophic, economy-destroying failure of most of the largest financial institutions in the country by doing nothing, potentially throwing the nation into The Worse Great Depression; or inject trillions upon trillions of taxpayer dollars into the financial system, bail out the institutions, inject liquidity into the market, keep interest rates low, and ultimately take on a huge amount of the cumulative risk and loss in an attempt to keep the sector afloat and help it recover.

4 What happened in the Aftermath?

Ultimately, President Obama and Congress decided to bail out the banks. Lehmann Brothers, one of the largest investment houses on Wall Street, went insolvent and filed for bankruptcy protection with over $600 billion dollars in assets. Most of the company was sold to overseas firms. Following this (what remains the largest bankruptcy filing in American history), the decision to inject around $12 trillion into the financial sector to keep it afloat and help it meet its obligations was made. The government decided that it would be too harmful to the general American population to allow a free-fall collapse.  Firms receiving assistance money were asked to tighten their belts and work with the government to cut down on risky assets and shore up capital positions. However, there was outcry at the huge, multi-million-dollar executive and trader bonuses that continued to be doled out following the liquidity injections – it seems greed knows no shame as poor decisions and performance failures were rewarded in droves.

The FCIC has a summary of the human failures surrounding the collapse. Each and every one of them reject technological failures as the underlying cause; indeed, they all point toward human decisions and behaviours that caused it all. They are reproduced here to conclude this section. (Financial Crisis Inquiry Commision of the United States of America, pp. xvii-xxiii)

We conclude this financial crisis was avoidable. The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire. The captains of finance and the public stewards of our financial system ignored warnings and failed to question, understand, and manage evolving risks within a system essential to the well-being of the American public.

We conclude widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision proved devastating to the stability of the nation’s financial markets. The sentries were not at their posts, in no small part due to the widely accepted faith in the self-correcting nature of the markets and the ability of financial institutions to effectively police themselves. More than 30 years of deregulation and reliance on self-regulation by financial institutions, championed by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and others, supported by successive administrations and Congresses, and actively pushed by the powerful financial industry at every turn, had stripped away key safeguards, which could have helped avoid catastrophe. This approach had opened up gaps in oversight of critical areas with trillions of dollars at risk, such as the shadow banking system and over-the-counter derivatives markets. In addition, the government permitted financial firms to pick their preferred regulators in what became a race to the weakest supervisor.

We conclude dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions were a key cause of this crisis. There was a view that instincts for self-preservation inside major financial firms would shield them from fatal risk-taking without the need for a steady regulatory hand, which, the firms argued, would stifle innovation. Too many of these institutions acted recklessly, taking on too much risk, with too little capital, and with too much dependence on short-term funding. In many respects, this reflected a fundamental change in these institutions, particularly the large investment banks and bank holding companies, which focused their activities increasingly on risky trading activities that produced hefty profits.

We conclude a combination of excessive borrowing, risky investments, and   transparency put the financial system on a collision course with crisis. In the years leading up to the crisis, too any financial institutions, as well as too many households, borrowed to the hilt, leaving them vulnerable to financial distress or ruin if the value of their investments declined even modestly.

We conclude the government was ill prepared for the crisis, and its inconsistent response added to the uncertainty and panic in the financial markets. As our report shows, key policy makers—the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York—who were best positioned to watch over our markets were ill prepared for the events of 2007 and 2008. Other agencies were also behind the curve. They were hampered because they did not have a clear grasp of the financial system they were charged with overseeing, particularly as it had evolved in the years leading up to the crisis. This was in no small measure due to the lack of transparency in key markets. They thought risk had been diversified when, in fact, it had been concentrated. Time and again, from the spring of 2007 on, policy makers and regulators were caught off guard as the contagion spread, responding on an ad hoc basis with specific programs to put fingers in the dike. There was no comprehensive and strategic plan for containment, because they lacked a full understanding of the risks and interconnections in the financial markets. Some regulators have conceded this error. We had allowed the system to race ahead of our ability to protect it.

We conclude there was a systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics. The integrity of our financial markets and the public’s trust in those markets are essential to the economic well-being of our nation. The soundness and the sustained prosperity of the financial system and our economy rely on the notions of fair dealing, responsibility, and transparency. In our economy, we expect businesses and individuals to pursue profits, at the same time that they produce products and services of quality and conduct themselves well. Unfortunately—as has been the case in past speculative booms and busts—we witnessed an erosion of standards of responsibility and ethics that exacerbated the financial crisis.

5 Conclusion

It is overwhelmingly clear the monster’s share of responsibility for the crises of 2008 rests on human decisions made over the course of nearly a hundred years. Steps could have been taken to mitigate the risk, and indeed many efforts were made to prevent regulatory oversight to do just that. Along the entire chain, including homeowners, loan officers, bank executives, traders, regulators, ratings agents, and government officials, people had opportunities to prevent the catastrophes but left them on the table in the pursuit of unsustainable growth and showy affluence.

Legislators have begun the process of illuminating the financial sector’s shadows by creating or tightening regulations and oversight; In the meantime, economic signals are just beginning to emerge that the economy is ready for higher interest rates and therefore is getting healthy again – eight years after the meltdown. Homeowners are starting to get back into the market, and housing prices are starting to recover. It remains doubtful that the effects of our collective human follies in the financial system will ever disappear.

6 References

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. (2015, November 18). Data Download Program. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from Federal Reserve System:

Davies, R. a. (2002). Monetary History from Ancient Times to the Present Day. Retrieved from A Comparative Chronology of Money:

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. (n.d.). Functions of Money – The Economic Lowdown. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

Ferguson, N. (2008). The Ascent of Money. New York, NY: Penguin.

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission of the United States of America. (2011). The FInancial Crisis Inquiry Report. US Government.

McLean, B. a. (2011). All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis.

United States Senate. (2011). Wall Street and The Financial Crisis. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from

World Gold Council. (n.d.). Gold as money. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from World Gold Council.

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