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FRONTLINE: The Warning

Airs Friday, June 17, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: (L to R) Robert Rubin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, 1995-1999; Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, 1987-2006; and Lawrence Summers, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, 1999-2001. FRONTLINE sifts through the ashes of the economic meltdown for clues about why it happened, examining critical moments when it might have gone much differently by looking back into the 1990s to discover early warnings of the crash.

In the devastating aftermath of the economic meltdown, FRONTLINE sifts the ashes for clues about why it happened and examines critical moments when it might have gone much differently.

Video Timeline

Explore the tide of deregulation; the drumbeat of warnings. Watch the video timeline beginning in 1987.

Looking back into the 1990s, producer/director Michael Kirk ("Inside the Meltdown," "Breaking the Bank") discovers early warnings of the crash, reveals an intense battle among high-ranking members of the Clinton administration and uncovers a concerted effort not to regulate the emerging, highly complex and lucrative derivatives markets, which would become the ticking time bomb within the American economy.

"We didn't truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency -- the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] -- who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?"

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Video

Video Excerpt: Frontline: The Warning

Above: In this clip from "The Warning," Frontline traces back to the Clinton Administration and the pro-business, anti-regulation powerbrokers Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and the man referred to as "The Wizard," Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan.

Video

The Warning: "Get This Lady Off Our Backs"

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Above: In this excerpt from "Frontline: The Warning," Brooksley Born's idea to regulate derivatives meets swift and fierce opposition from the Clinton economic team.

Video

The Warning: The "Earthquake"

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Above: In this excerpt from "Frontline: The Warning," after Brooksley Born tells staff to take the first step in regulating derivatives, the powers that be in Washington go to war to stop her.