Counting the Cost

Lehman Brothers – five years on

Counting the Cost investigates a radical plan pitting the rights of working class homeowners against the big banks.

It has been five years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but the financial crisis that followed it is still going strong.

The events of Monday, September 15, 2008, hit every corner of the US economy and the world. 

Washington has spent trillions trying to stabilise its banking system, prop up automakers and stimulate its economy, but those efforts could not stop the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. According to the government’s accountability office, the cost of the financial crisis to the US has been $22tn. 

At the height of the crisis, unemployment soared and then remained above eight percent for more than three years. Even today, despite all sorts of attempts to stimulate jobs growth, it hovers stubbornly above seven percent.

To get back to pre-crisis levels, the US economy needs another 2.2 million jobs.

On Counting the Cost, we look back at where it all started – the subprime loans to homeowners that were repackaged by Wall Street. Since September 2008, 4.5 million American homes have been foreclosed upon.

But, in Richmond, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is pursuing a radical plan to help embattled homeowners. It is a plan that has ignited a legal battle with some of the nation’s biggest banks and fund managers, pitting the rights of a struggling, working class community against the rights of investors.

The (bumpy) road to Zurich

While the US remains the undisputed home of capitalism, Switzerland has also eked out its own claim to unbridled financial prowess as the home of the big financial and commodity trading houses. 

But now the lightly-regulated path to Zurich is starting to look a little bumpier as Swiss politicians attempt to break up the banks.

Counting the Cost investigates a story with a dark side.

Cleaning up in Nigeria

Five years after one of its pipelines burst and spilled oil into fishing ponds in Nigeria, the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has began talks with the Nigerian community on compensation and cleanup.

Shell has admitted responsibility but disputes the extent of the damage.

Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege reports on the fallout from the spill, while Inemo Samiama, a Nigerian activist and country director at Stakeholder Democracy Network, explains why compensation will not be enough to make up for the damage caused by the spill.

A Canadian success story

It is hard to imagine a more versatile aircraft than Canada’s Twin Otter. Just ask a pilot.

“Everybody loves this airplane,” explains pilot Sylvain Breault. “It’s one of those cult airplanes. You’ll find a lot of pilots that start to fly the Twin Otter, they just want to fly the Twin Otter and fly nothing else.”

But being rugged and popular did not stop the Twin Otter from going out of production in 1988. It simply did not fit the business plan of Boeing, which owned the company at the time. But then Viking Air entered the picture. The aircraft parts maker from western Canada bought the original designs and started making Twin Otters again in 2008. They have sold 80 planes so far and are producing a new one every 10 days.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak reports on an icon that is still going strong and a business success story. 


Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Watch more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali@abidoliverali