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IDFA - Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Not all bankers escaped prosecution in the U.S. mortgage crisis: a small Chinese-American family bank spent years fighting in the courts.

This is a family saga, and a fight against the government: a real David and Goliath kind of story. What happened to the Abacus Bank in New York’s Chinatown combines many stories into one. The documentary follows the Sung banking family, who was prosecuted for fraud by the American government during the financial crisis. Not a single one of the big American banks wound up in court for selling junk mortgages – instead, they got off by paying billion-dollar settlements.

But this small bank for Chinese migrants became entangled in a lengthy legal battle. The family has spent years trying to prove their innocence. We follow the bank’s founders and their two daughters in their massive struggle. A third daughter is a doctor, and the fourth works as a public prosecutor but gives up her job when suspicion falls on the family business. This story of an underdog also gives us a glimpse into the Chinese-American community and its financial system.