If you’ve been missing Dateline NBC correspondent Chris Hansen since his To Catch A Predator series was retired, you’re in luck. He’s back for the next few editions of Dateline with Inside The Financial Fiasco, a three part investigation that provides a revealing real world look at how the economic collapsed happened – from the clueless buyers to the frenzied unscuplulous lenders. (“If you had a pulse, we give you a loan,” one mortgage industry insider tells Hansen). Fans of Hansen’s imposing dramatic on-camera confrontations with creeps won’t be disappointed when he strides into a collection agency to question the ugly tactics being used on consumers falling behind on their debt payments. Part one of the investigation airs Sunday March 22 at 7 p.m. ET. The Biz recently caught up with Hansen to talk about the new series and whether there’s another TCAP in his future.
Are mortgage company executives the new predators?
Chris Hansen: I think there are a lot of financial predators. Clearly there were borrowers who gamed the system and borrowed money they shouldn’t have borrowed. Mortgage executives who gave out loans that shouldn’t have been given out. And there were Wall Street people who were promoting this and snatching them up as quickly as they could. Along the way you had bond agencies like Standard & Poor’s who stamped these things AAA who today will tell you they shouldn’t have been stamped AAA. Underwriters were in many cases influenced by sales persons to move these things through when in some cases there was fraud involved.
To Catch A Predator made you an iconic figure in television. How is it when you’re out there doing other stories than what you’ve been identified with?
Hansen: Well here’s where it’s helpful. If we’re having lunch with a former executive at a mortgage company who has a great story to tell and he’s never told it before, the fact that he’s familiar with me from the other work tends to be in our favor. In this story it was very helpful because a number of people agreed to talk because they knew who I was. …In the second hour when we get inside some of these debt collecting operations, these third tier guys who use strong arm tactics – there again there is this interesting moment when I approach somebody and he looks up and says “oh you’re Chris Hansen.” Than it takes a few seconds to realize it and it’s “uh oh.” We have another investigation in California coming up next month. We caught this guy red-handed in this thing and we see this moment where he says “hey I watch all your stuff, it’s great.” It sinks in and “oh man, you can’t put me on TV.” I’ve got bad news. You’re already on it.
Money is tight in television news and investigations such as the ones you do are expensive. What’s the pressure like to get these stories done with fewer resources?
Hansen: Being smart with money has been a reality for us for a long time and it’s more of a reality now. We have this discussion around here all the time. Nobody can work any harder. We have to work smarter. We’re trying to be smarter about travel and how we do things. What do we need cameras for, what do we don’t need cameras for. (NBC News) set a priority for this kind of work and this is the work we love to do. We get a lot of great work done under budget.
Are we are ever going to see a new To Catch A Predator again?
Hansen: It still airs on MSNBC and in turn all over the world. We did some 30 hours of television. It was important to use that kind of impact reporting style and enterprising techniques and move on and explore some other topics. We’ve been doing that. Once we get past some of those, we’re going to sit down and have a discussion and take a look at perhaps doing some more To Catch A Predator investigations.
So never say never.
Hansen: You never say never. I get that question daily, whether on Facebook or walking through the streets of New York. Obviously people are interested in it. We’ll have that discussion down the road.