To Tell Complex Bank Investigative Story, ProPublica Adds Comic Strip, Satiric Music Video to Online and Radio

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Even with the real-life consequences of the burst housing bubble – the principal source of wealth of many families wiped out as their home mortgage went upside down or into foreclosure — the story of how collateralized debt obligations (CDO) extended the bubble and worsened its damage is, to many, a classic MEGO. So ProPublica turned to a comic strip and a satiric music video to help tell its investigation CDO boom and bust.

To be sure, ProPublica’s Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger have produced a  4,800 word story “Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis,” that for the first time documents how wide-spread the practice became of banks solving the problem of moving pieces of securitized mortgages that no one wanted to buy – by selling them to each other.

“Faced with increasing difficulty in selling the mortgage-backed securities that had been among their most lucrative products,…banks hit on a solution that preserved their quarterly earnings and personal bonuses.  They created fake demand,” they write.

As usual, ProPublica in this investigation also has a mainstream media partner. NPR’s Planet Money business bloggers worked on the piece and created a version for Friday’s Morning Edition.

Planet Money commissioned a video from Auto-Tune the News that turns testimony from bankers into a comic music. The song and video,  “Bankers’ Song – We Didn’t See It Comin,’” is here.

The cartoonist Al Granberg created a comic strip, “Welcome to CDO World,” to explain how the bank’s manuevers with CDOs worked, and how they came undone.

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