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Futures Exchange

Politicians and commentators who got it right.

Nouriel Roubini

Roubini is professor of economics at New York University. His warnings of economic meltdown to the International Monetary Fund in 2006 were met with derision and won him the nickname "Dr Doom", but have proved prescient.

In February 2008 he wrote: "A near global economic recession will ensue as the financial and credit losses and the credit crunch spread around the world. Panic, fire sales, cascading fall in asset prices will exacerbate the financial and real economic distress as a number of large and systemically important financial institutions go bankrupt. A 1987 style stock market crash could occur leading to further panic and severe financial and economic distress. In this meltdown scenario US and global financial markets will experience their most severe crisis in the last quarter of a century."

Ann Pettifor

Pettifor first wrote about "the coming first world debt crisis" in 2003 and later published a book of the same title (Palgrave, 2006). A reprint is probably due, minus the word "Coming". She is a fellow of the new economics foundation and led the Jubilee 2000 campaign for third-world debt cancellation.

Warren Buffett

In 2003 the famous investor warned: "[Derivatives are] financial weapons of mass destruction … Derivatives generate reported earnings that are often wildly overstated and based on estimates whose inaccuracy may not be exposed for many years ... Large amounts of risk have becomes concentrated in the hands of relatively few derivatives dealers ... which can trigger serious systematic problems." (Some argue, however, that Buffet lost his touch by plunging back into shares in mid-October 2008.)

Byron Dorgan

The Democratic senator was one of the few who opposed sweeping financial deregulation in 1999. He said at the time: "I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past and that that which is true in the 1930s is true in 2010."

Brooksley Born

Unsung hero Born was head of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996-1999. She insisted that derivatives trade be strictly regulated and complained that unfettered, opaque trading could “threaten our regulated markets or, indeed, our economy without any federal agency knowing about it”. She was opposed, ostracised and eventually silenced by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy Larry Summers, dubbed the "Three Marketeers".

David Kauders

That rare thing: an independent financial advisor who rejected the allure of stocks and shares, long warning that the bubble would burst.

Paul Krugman

Princeton University professor Paul Krugman won the Nobel prize for economics in 2008. He has been a strident critic of Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan, and wrote in 2007: "How did things get so opaque? The answer is 'financial innovation' – two words that should, from now on, strike fear into investors' hearts."

Daniel Altman

Economist and journalist Altman wrote in 2002: "When companies that rack up huge hidden debts and traders who illicitly amass mountains of risk are exposed, Wall Street's big players rush to cut their losses and collect on their debts. If that kind of rush were ever to result in a shortage of cash, it would paralyze the financial system. Stock markets would tumble and banks would close, putting the savings of households at risk." ("Contracts So Complex They Imperil The System", New York Times, 24 February 2002)

Vince Cable

Cable, deputy leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, asked then Chancellor Gordon Brown in November 2003: "The growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level. What action will the Chancellor take on the problem of consumer debt?" Brown replied: "We have been right about the prospects for growth in the British economy, and the hon. Gentleman has been wrong."

Kevin Phillips

A former Republican Party strategist, he has turned his guns on "the scary intersection of oil, debt, and religion". His 2006 book, "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" warned of the "financialization of the United States" and the dangers of obscure financial instruments such as derivatives.

And there's more …

The above list is not, of course, exhaustive. Others include:

  • Dean Baker (co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research)
  • Roger Bootle (economist, Capital Economics)
  • Larry Elliot (economics editor, The Guardian)
  • Will Hutton (chief executive, The Work Foundation)
  • Naomi Klein (author and activist)
  • Richard Murphy (founder of Tax Justice Network)
  • Robert Shiller (professor of economics, Yale University)
  • Prem Sikka (professor of accounting, University of Essex)
  • George Soros (investor)
  • Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel prize-winning economist)
  • Gillian Tett (assistant editor, Financial Times)
  • Graham Turner (economist, GFC Economics)
  • Elizabeth Warren (professor of law, Harvard)
  • and – lest Bubblewrapped be mistaken for a bunch of lilly-livered pinko liberals – Ron Paul (Republican maverick).

Please email your own suggestions to These days it seems everyone and their dog expected a crisis (minus one or two world leaders), but we want to hear about those whose warnings were particularly prescient or uncannily accurate.

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