FCIC report: Wall Street gets off free
It may do nothing to reform Wall Street which many accuse of bringing the financial system down with negligence and corporate greed, and for which it's still business as usual.
It wasn’t so long ago the world was reeling from a financial crisis. In the “financial capital of the world,” New York City, hard hit Americans were hitting the streets to call for accountability on Wall Street. Many blamed bankers for irresponsible and illegal actions bringing the economy to near collapse.
"If I did that, if he did that, if we did that, we'd be in jail," lamented a Wall Street protester in April.
And in Washington, people wanted fat cats firms to pay for multiple crises only big bankers could really explain.
"A mortgage crisis, a capital markets crisis, a global credit crisis, and a severe global recession," recited Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan at a Washington hearing in January of 2010.
It was borne from this mess the US President formed a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of the crisis.
“It is our hope that together we can rebuild the American people's belief in a financial system that puts American's to work," is how the chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry commission put it in a promotional video for the public.
Over a year they heard from stewards of the economy.
"The most important less of this crisis is we have to end too big to fail," said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
They heard from the CEOs of investment banks:
"Anyone who says I wouldn't have change a thing I think is crazy," CEO Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein told the panel.
Now, the meltdown panel believes the answers to this outrage and calls for accountability can be found in 500 plus pages of their findings, a more than 600 page report, that gave them enough room to point the finger everywhere for a crisis they say was avoidable.
“We do place special responsibility with public leaders, those trusted to run regulatory agencies, and CEOs of companies who drove us to a financial crisis," reported FCIC Commissioner Heather Murren. "But we must accept responsibility as people for what we chose to allow.”
And as for Wall Street specifically…
"Dramatic failures of corporate governance at many financial firms were critical causes of the crises," said Brooksley Born, FCIC commissioner.
While blame is directed at Wall Street, the irony is although the New York Stock Exchange is found there, most of the big banks and investment firms people associate with the financial crisis aren't even located on that now infamous street. They're spread all over New York City.
Just as Wall Street has become merely a symbol of the US financial industry, so too has Washington's condemnation of it. The reality is, we've seen this all before.
We've already seen Congressional hearings where US lawmakers interrogated bankers and threatened those in charge of the economy asking stewards such as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner why he shouldn't resign last January.
Yet no one on Wall Street or that was watching over finance has faced criminal charges, no one has really been held accountable, and by many accounts nothing has changed about financial practices.
"We can already see most of the people who were in power before the crisis are still in power and most of the business practices are still going on," asserted Joe Weisenthal, Deputy Editor at Business Insider.
And now more than two years after the crisis, the opportunity for the commission to sway public opinion and make any difference to those practices, has seemingly passed it by.
"That ship has sailed," said Michael Perino, legal scholar, St. John's University Law Professor, and author of "The Hellhound of Wall Street." "These political moments where everything comes together and you can pass this kind of comprehensive reform legislation are these evanescent bubbles and they don't last long, and we missed ours."
So for the American people who wanted Wall Street held responsible, they may not get the justice they're looking for.
More than 500 pages and year later, a world once sent reeling by a financial system on the verge of collapse, may be no more protected from it happening again.
"I'm not sure that we can prevent it from happening again," said Perino.
Peter Schiff, the president of Euro Pacific Capital, said the findings are really meaningless; the whole commission was a sham.
“They weren’t looking for the truth,” he argued. “They didn’t find out anything.”
Schiff argued the government commission was seeking an excuse to justify their preconceived conclusion.
“They put together a bunch of phony witnesses to create the pretense they were actually doing something and wasted another $9 or $10 million taxpayer dollars,” he said. “They validated a government lie that the financial crisis and the housing bubble were a result of a lack of regulatory oversight, and the solution is bigger government, more regulators, more rules, more regulations when it was government rules and regulations that created the problem.”
Gerald Celente, the director of the Trends Research Institute in New York said the report is not new, it’s all information that was public knowledge and many analysts warned of for years.
“Only an idiot, imbecile or ideologue can’t see the deal here. Wall Street has hijacked washington,” he said. “It’s [the report] a white wash like all the rest of them. You know what’s going to happen. No heads will roll.”
Little will change; no one will be punished for the failures.
“Theonly heads that are reserved to role are we the people. That’s the way the deal works,” Celente argued. “The police have become nothing more than enforces for the crime bosses.”
He explained these commissions are reports have gone on for years and are run by politicians who are connected and invested in Wall Street.
“They call them campaign contributions; can any adults say bribes and payoffs?” Celente remarked.