Review: 'The Con'

Post by: Rick Ellis 06 October, 2020

Even though it's only been a bit over 12 years, the causes and history of the 2008 housing crash and resulting recession have been wildly misremembered by analysts, pundits and the American public.

The conventional wisdom is that sure, there were some problems in the banking industry. But the biggest cause of the collapse of the mortgage industry was due to people overpaying for houses. It was foolish people getting mortgages on homes that were too expensive and too big for their needs. It was the greed of average Americans that caused the recession, not those banks that were just trying to run a business.

Those talking points don't sound very accurate to the millions of Americans who personally went through that crisis and they didn't seem true to writer and producer Patrick Lovell, who also lost his home during the housing crisis. According to Lovell (who produced The Con with Adam Bronfman and Eric Vaughan), the answer is that millions of Americans were conned. Not by bankers who convinced average Americans to buy houses they ultimately couldn't afford. Large numbers of Americans were swindled by unscrupulous con artists who lied, cheated and defrauded hundreds of thousands of people out of their life savings and their homes.

The Con begins in Akron, Ohio, with the story of 90-year-old Addie Pope. She was a widow, living in a home her husband had paid off decades earlier. But suddenly her home was in foreclosure and when the sheriff's finally arrived to evict her, she shot and killed herself. It's a horrifying tale, but her death turns out to be the consequence of a series of frauds that are slowly unveiled across the docuseries. Like many others, Pope was the victim of fraudulent paperwork, corrupt deed companies and an industry that discovered a near-full proof way to commit large-scale fraud without fear of repercussions.

As infuriating as the fraud is, it's even more anger-provoking that the people at the top of this scam got away with nothing more than the occassional loss of their job. After pocketing as much as several hundred million dollars in bonuses and salary tied to financial results only made possible by the con.

The five-part docu-series does an impressive job of both explaining and properly framing a complex issue while also weaving in a number of stories from real-life people who lost everything to the scams. One woman lost her house due to the broker changing the terms of her mortgage and then forging her name on the updated loan documents. She had been attempting to get justice from literally the first week after she signed her loan papers. No lawyer would take the case, no court would help her. It wasn't until eight years after the fact that someone accidentally sent her paperwork that clearly showed the fraud. But the statute of limitations had run out and when she was interviewed, you could see the weight of a decade's worth of fighting on her face. "I lost EVERYTHING," she told Lovell. "My house, my marriage, all of my dreams, all of the years I spent fighting this. And I have the proof right HERE. And it's all for nothing."

And that's the tragedy of The Con. This well-reported documentary serves as a solid guidepost for what we should do in the future to prevent this from happening again. But it can't fix any of those broken lives or ruined dreams and it won't put any of the people in jail who deserve to locked up for a couple of decades.

That being said, The Con is a must-see docu-series that both highlights the mistakes of the past and sheds some light on the political climate of 2020. For people who came of age in the era of the 2008 housing collapse, it's easy to believe that the deck is stacked against average Americans. That skepticism and distrust have made much of the current political turmoil almost inevitable.

The Con premieres Tuesday, October 6th, 2020 on demand.

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 October 2020 18:44