Bankers acted like they didn't have enough money to cover their butts then. But through the wonders of databases, bankers have in a sense created a second set of books, hiding the true size of the banking system. To get around the noses of regulators, bankers figured out ways to hide the numbers by structuring transactions to avoid detection, hiding the true value of their assets. What has been hidden is called the shadow banking system. In the same way that we can indirectly measure and detect dark matter, we can detect dark money.
How much dark money are we talking about? About $100 *trillion*. Remember all that hand waving and gesturing to the effect that the banking system would blow up if the US government didn't ante up $800 billion or so to save those banks? As the richest country in the world, a small set of citizens of the United States own or control a good chunk of that $100 trillion. Given this astounding figure, it is likely that the banking system would have recovered well, but some not so well placed investors would not have been happy with the source of funds chosen for that recovery.
It is interesting that regulators could miss that much money. But what if the incentive to find that dark money just isn't there? $Trillions can easily capture an agency in any country with all sorts of incentives to nudge, wink and look the other way while on that paid vacation to Monaco.
That kind of money easily justifies a 1% sales tax on securities trading worldwide, where $5 *quadrillion* changes hands every year. $100 trillion in hidden assets means that we really didn't need to go through this Great Recession as the bankers were happy to tell us we needed to do.
Years, ago a scientist named William Teller did a great analysis of the math behind quantum mechanics and the relativity theories from Einstein. He noticed that potential energy was a variable used to balance the math in quantum mechanics and relativity. He estimates from that work that the potential energy in the volume of a single hydrogen atom is about 10^92 ergs, a humongous amount of energy. Abundance is everywhere. We only need to look for it. Apparently, the same is true of our financial system.
Perhaps that entire drama surrounding the bailout was for naught.