Daily Archives: September 15, 2017

After the Crash, Big Banks Got Bailouts. Abacus Faced Charges.

It’s a little-known chapter from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression: In 2009, shortly after the housing market crashed and the markets melted down, the owners of a small community bank in New York City’s Chinatown discovered fraud within their loan department.

The bank’s owners, the Chinese-American Sung family, fired a loan officer — and reported the fraud to their regulators at the federal Office of Thrift Supervision.

But two-and-a-half years later, the bank was accused of mortgage fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office — making Abacus Federal Savings the only U.S. bank to be prosecuted in relation to the financial collapse and the first bank indicted in New York since 1991.

Why did Abacus face charges, while the biggest banks on Wall Street all avoided prosecution for fraud related to the sale of bad mortgages?

That’s the question at the heart of Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, the newest film from acclaimed documentary director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters). Fresh off of a robust international film festival run and national theatrical release, the documentary has its national broadcast premiere tonight on FRONTLINE.

In vivid detail, Abacus chronicles the Sung family’s quest to clear their names, the district attorney’s case against the bank — and how 19 of the bank’s ex-employees, largely immigrants, were treated by the justice system. 

Read on.