On Day Eight
One financial crisis. Seven tense days.
The financial crisis of 2008 spread like wildfire. From the fall of Lehman Brothers in the US to the largest European banks, it was a turning point that revealed the complexity of the world’s financial system. For financial giant FORTIS/ABN-Amro, double the size of Lehman, any wrong move could trigger the collapse of banks throughout Europe and the British Isles. Differences aside, now came the moment for intense collaboration. From within the heart of the crisis, the key players look back on the week that came so close to triggering global disaster.
"We knew if [Floris] were to collapse it would create a domino effect in Holland too, and we didn’t know how the Belgians wanted to solve such a problem", recalls Bos, while then Belgian Finance Minister Didier Renyders emphasises that "there was a lack of trust between the different banks and a need for cash by Fortis for the following Monday that was just too big". As time wore on, working through the murky position of both nations would be crucial for finding a solution to a potentially global financial disaster.
Aware that theirs was one of the first European banks threatening to topple, then Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme admits that "we knew we would have to consult with the Dutch government at some point". Slowly, it dawned on leaders that they would have to come to a collective decision.
"To minimize risks with taxpayers' money and keep the banks going, nationalisation seemed the only viable option", reflects Leterme. Coming to the unconventional decision of becoming the owners of a bank, Bos concedes that "we're doing something as a government which we never wanted to do… But we've managed to halt the crisis".
After hours of negotiations and days of sleep deprivation, the two prime ministers made a compromise of 16.8 billion euros. "I had mixed feelings, but we had an agreement and it was honourable", says Leterme.
While leaders in Holland and Belgium rallied together to halt what could have lead to worldwide economic collapse, the fate of the world’s banks was far from stable. Economic agents are just humans after all, and "human nature is dangerous from a standpoint of financial stability" (Jean-Claude Trichet, European Central Bank President 2008). Questioning the ethics of our current capitalist financial framework and ruminating on its implications for our lives today, On Day Eight provides both a philosophical and an educational account of this harrowing week.
Reviews and More
"Outstanding documentary" – NRC Handelsblad
"Gives a shocking insight of the financial crisis" – De Morgen
"Electrifying" – Het Financiële Dagblad