In October 1982, US President Ronald Reagan signed into , which provided for adjustable-rate mortgage loans, began the process of banking deregulation, and contributed to the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s/early 1990s.

In November 1999, US President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, which repealed provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act that prohibit a bank holding company from owning other financial companies. The repeal effectively removed the separation that previously existed between Wall Street investment banks and depository banks, providing a government stamp of approval for a universal risk-taking banking model. Investment banks such as Lehman would now be thrust into direct competition with commercial banks.

In December 2000, President Clinton signed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 into law. Written by Congress with lobbying assistance from the financial industry, it banned the further regulation of the derivatives market.

In 2004, the US Securities and Exchange Commission relaxed the net capital rule, which enabled investment banks to substantially increase the level of debt they were taking on, fueling the growth in mortgage-backed securities supporting subprime mortgages. The SEC has conceded that self-regulation of investment banks contributed to the crisis.

April 2007: New Century, an American REIT specialising in sub-prime mortgages, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This propagated the sub-prime crisis, through securitization, to banks around the world.

August 2007: The Federal Open Market Committee began reducing the federal funds rate from its peak of 5.25% in response to worries about liquidity and confidence.

August 9, 2007: BNP Paribas blocked withdrawals from two of its funds, since there was no liquidity, making valuation of the funds impossible – a clear sign that banks were refusing to do business with each other.

October 9, 2007: The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its peak closing price of 14,164.53. Existing home sales also peaked this month and began to decline.

December 12, 2007: The Federal Reserve instituted the Term Auction Facility to supply short-term credit to banks with sub-prime mortgages.

March 17, 2008: The Federal Reserve guaranteed Bear Stearns' bad loans to facilitate its acquisition by JPMorgan Chase.

On June 26, 2008, Senator Charles Schumer , a member of the Senate Banking Committee, chairman of Congress' Joint Economic Committee and the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, released several letters he had sent to regulators, which warned that, "The possible collapse of big mortgage lender IndyMac Bancorp Inc. poses significant financial risks to its borrowers and depositors, and regulators may not be ready to intervene to protect them." Some worried depositors began to withdraw money.

On July 7, 2008, IndyMac announced on the company blog that it: Had failed to raise capital since its May 12, 2008 quarterly earnings report; Had been notified by bank and thrift regulators that IndyMac Bank was no longer deemed "well-capitalized". IndyMac: The first visible institution to run into trouble in the United States was the Southern California–based IndyMac, a spin-off of Countrywide Financial. Before its failure, IndyMac Bank was the largest savings and loan association in the Los Angeles market and the seventh largest mortgage originator in the United States.

July 11, 2008: IndyMac failed.

On July 11, 2008, citing liquidity concerns, the FDIC put IndyMac Bank into conservatorship.

A bridge bank, IndyMac Federal Bank, FSB, was established to assume control of IndyMac Bank's assets, its secured liabilities, and its insured deposit accounts. The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) announced plans to open IndyMac Federal Bank, FSB on July 14, 2008.

July 30, 2008: The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 was enacted.

IndyMac Bancorp filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 31, 2008.

September 7, 2008: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the federal government.

September 15, 2008: Lehman Brothers went bankrupt after the Federal Reserve declined to guarantee its loans, causing the Dow Jones to drop 504 points, its worst decline in seven years. The same day, Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch.

September 16, 2008: The Federal Reserve took over American International Group. The Reserve Primary Fund "broke the buck" as a result of massive withdrawals from money market accounts.

September 21, 2008: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley converted themselves from investment banks to bank holding companies to increase their protection by the Federal Reserve.

September 26, 2008: Washington Mutual went bankrupt after a bank run.

September 29, 2008: The House of Representatives rejected the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 instituting the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. In response the Dow Jones dropped 770 points, its largest single-day decline.

October 3, 2008: Congress passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

November 25, 2008: The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility was announced.

December 16, 2008: The federal funds rate was lowered to zero percent.

January 2009: The Big Three automobile manufacturers received a bailout from the TARP program.

February 13, 2009: Congress approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion economic stimulus package.

February 13, 2009, President Barack Obama signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

March 6, 2009: The Dow Jones hit its lowest level of 6,443.27.

May 20, 2009, President Obama signed Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009.

December 11, 2009, House cleared bill H.R.4173, Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.

April 15, 2010, Senate introduced bill S.3217, Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.

July 21, 2010, Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted.

A Major report produced by Congress: the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report, released January 2011.

A Major report produced by Congress: report by the United States Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations entitled Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse (released April 2011).

As of September 2011, no individuals in the UK have been prosecuted for misdeeds during the financial meltdown of 2008.

In Iceland in April 2012, the special Landsdómur court convicted former Prime Minister Geir Haarde of mishandling the 2008–2012 Icelandic financial crisis.