This was not explicity the issue at hand at the conference on Consumer Decisionmaking: Insights from Behavioral Economics I attended recently at the Dallas Fed (cosponsored with UT-Dallas), but it emerged as an issue in the final talk by Christopher Foote of the Boston Fed, who tilted to the bubbles side, drawing on the earlier keynote speech by George Akerlof, although George did not pose it this way. For Foote, even though fraud and corruption increased during the bubble (and Akerlof argued that they tend to generally in bubbles), it was the housing bubble that sent everything over the top to come crashing down so disastrously ultimately.
Most of the other talks tended to focus either on misbehaviors by lenders and how to stop them (many participants among the 250 or so being people from many Feds or other govt agencies such as the FTC), or on the many psychological tendencies and limits that afflict consumers making them prey to such fraudulent and misleading activities. A good summary of these was given by the other keynote speaker, Sendhil Mullainathan. These include failures of perception, failures of analysis even when perception is accurate, and then failures to act even when both perceptions and analysis are accurate. I note a few other things reported including by Eckel and Croson of UTD that women, parents with children, and African Americans are too risk-averse for their own financial well-being, but from Jeff Carpenter of Middlebury, that risk preferences are not in general related to income or social class. Also unsurprisingly, people with low numerical ability tend to get into more trouble with their mortgage payments, all other factors held constant.
I support all the moves to educate people better, to regulate the lenders more to be more transparent in their activities, and so on. But in the end I think I agree with Foote that it was the bubble and the psychological tendencies ("animal spirits") to such that led us into this most recent disaster, not the longrunning exploitation of innocent victims by fraudulent lenders that did so.