the OP may have been a little dramatic in his description but the main point is solid I think. Often industry insiders know stuff long before it becomes media discussion. One street banker opined to me about 18 months ago that neither Bear nor Lehman could could survive as independent entities and he had a detailed argument about their balance sheet. All public info, but the smart money knows first. The top New York law firms are often good sources of whats happening behind the scenes because of their tight working relationship with the banks. When the Savings and Loan debacle and see-through office building bust happened, securitization and off-balance sheet financing barely existed. The 50+ trillion dollar (notional amount) CDS market didn't exist either. Fannie and Freddie stepped in (massively) during the past 15 years and up to to provide credit to borrowers where the S&L's once did making that credit crunch temporary by taking approx 50% market share of the entire residential mortgage market. Note that their debt is "off balance sheet" too. If it were recorded properly our national would almost double. The credit contraction this time around is on a much bigger scale. The commercial real estate shoe has yet to really fall as it had its version of no money down 100% too. Oh sure, the loans were made at 80% of "value", appraised value that is that magically was always way higher than acquisition price (I know a thing or 2 about that market). Now these loans need to be refi'd and there's no equity and there will be no "save the commercial real estate victims" plan from Washington. Relevance to trading? Plenty if you trade currencies, REIT stocks, retail stocks, financials etc. etc..