Abacus: Small Enough to Jail ★★★★

During the mortgage crisis which started in 2008, many banks and lenders were guilty of writing fraudulent, sub-prime mortgages and reselling baskets of this paper as high rated securities primed to default. Most of the big banks and institutions that played these games were considered "too big to fail;" and the government bailed them out and only issued fines. No banks were ever charged for the scandals and crimes that almost caused a worldwide Depression.

No banks except in New York City, where a small (6 branch) bank serving the immigrant community in China Town, Abacus Federal Savings Bank, was brought to trial for over 80 counts of aggravated fraud. Several loan officers admitted to padding applications and accepting what amounted to bribes to approve subprime loans. The bank's founders, an immigrant family (an 80-year old father and three lawyer daughters) was accused of conspiring with some dishonest employees to defraud. The prosecution had to prove that the bank itself was complicit in making these loans, which if proven would probably destroy the bank and the founding family. This bank, that was "small enough to jail," apparently spent five years and $10 million to defend itself. And this documentary goes deeply into the trial and later the jury proceedings to examine this case, which finally was decided in 2015. I'm not going to disclose the result of the trial...just say that the film deftly presented all the facts, allowing the viewer to follow the case as the jury did. It's an absorbing and involving legal thriller, and a hopeful example of American justice in action.