Time for Answers

September 17, 2009

It begins. The first public meeting of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission kicks off today and the media is finally taking notice.

  • The Washington Independent takes a look at the commission members and wonders if they’re interested in sweeping reforms.
  • The Los Angeles Times is concerned that pesky ‘partisanship’ might get in the way of justice.
  • American Banker predicts that the commission will "gain more importance as regulatory reform stalls on Capitol Hill."
  • Portfolio.com is already disappointed in the Commission writing, "Angelides assured Reuters that "he’s no Ferdinand Pecora." Too bad."

Will the Commission turn out to be a lion or a lamb? Main Street needs a lion. We need this Commission to expose the excess, the fraud and the abuse at the heart of the financial system.

The Pecora Commission resulted in sweeping reforms that protected consumers for decades. It can happen again, but, only if the Commission puts the public interest first.

America’s been ripped off. It’s time for answers and reform so that this crisis doesn’t happen again.

Exposing the 21st Century Banksters

September 16, 2009

After the 1929 stock market crash, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Ferdinand Pecora to investigate the cause. Pecora’s investigation took on the powerful ‘banksters,’ the corrupt financial titans of his day, and revealed widespread fraud and abuse. His investigations ushered in sweeping regulatory changes.

Today, a Financial Truth Commission led by Phil Angelides is beginning to look into the fraud and abuse that helped usher in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Their first public meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Seventy years ago,Pecora outlined Angelides’ challenge:

Above all, Pecora understood the power of public outrage.

"Pecora’s success was his ability to crystallize the anger that a lot of Americans were feeling toward Wall Street," said Michael Perino, a law professor at St. John’s University and author of an upcoming book about the hearings. "He was able to create a clamor for reform."

But Pecora also realized that such clamor was fleeting.

In his 1939 book, "Wall Street Under Oath," Pecora wrote, "The public is sometimes forgetful." As memories of the stock market crash faded, he warned, Americans "may lend at least one ear to the persuasive voices of The Street subtly pleading for a return to the ‘good old times.’ "

Reflecting on his investigation, Pecora recalled how "the captains of Wall Street, still within the shadow of panic and depression," had seemed at first eager to submit to oversight. But it didn’t last.

"The more business recovered, however, and the stronger it felt, the more openly and bitterly did Wall Street oppose any sound program of reform," he wrote.

That’s what current advocates of regulatory change fear.

Wall Street wants us to forget the pain the financial collapse caused because they know that outrage begets reform. They don’t want to see the system reformed because they don’t want to be held accountable.

But, the truth is, the current system failed us. It brought job losses and financial heartache to millions of Americans. Wall Street’s abuse is responsible, but, so too is the regulatory framework that is supposed to keep abuse in check.

It’s time to hold the masterminds of the economic collapse responsible. It’s time to reform the system so that it doesn’t happen again. As Ferdinand Pecora did in his day, it’s up to the Financial Truth Commission to expose the rampant abuse of the corrupt and arrogant 21st century ‘banksters’ that continue to stand in the way of real reform.