Was the financial crisis caused by "systemic failure" or mortgage fraud? Or a combination of the two? And why are so many American homeowners still paying the price?
When Travis Paules worked as a branch manager for American General Finance in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s, he tried to do things by the book. He didn't cut corners, he recalls, because his bosses at the finance company made it clear that it didn't want him to cut corners, and that he should balance the need for loan production with the need to make sure his front-line staffers weren't sticking borrowers into deals they couldn't afford. Back then he liked to say: "My personal morals aren't good, but I have good business morals."
Things changed for Paules in 1998.