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Kai Ryssdal: The National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis released its findings today. Its main conclusion is that the crisis was -- drumroll please -- avoidable.

Four members of the panel dissented from the report. But after more than a year of inquiry, and interviews with some 700 people, the government's official verdict on the financial crisis doesn't really tell us an awful lot we already didn't know. And doesn't give us much to go on.

From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: Business executive John Thompson is a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

John Thompson: I think we have a reservoir of facts that is the most complete view of what has happened.

He says the group did exactly what Congress told it to.

Thompson: We were asked to determine what were the causes of the financial crisis, and why were those causes allowed to occur.

Among the unsurprising findings in today's report: regulators didn't do what they were supposed to; there was a lack of transparency; investors behaved unethically; and credit rating agencies failed. The final report was written by six Democrats. All four Republicans on the commission dissented.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin was one of them.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin: As we said in our writing, if everything explains the financial crisis, then in the end, nothing does.

He says the group had its own management failures.

Holtz-Eakin: To use the staff effectively, investigate the right kind of things, get the commissioners focused on coming to conclusions. We wasted a lot of time and money as a result.

After 18 months and almost $10 million, critics say it needed more time, more money, and more specialists.

Lawrence MacDonald was interviewed several times. He traded credit default swaps for Lehman Brothers, then wrote a book about it, called "A Colossal Failure of Common Sense."

Lawrence MacDonald: I'm disappointed they didn't have more financial people, at least, on the phone with me.

Like many, MacDonald says he wanted answers; people held accountable. And in this "reservoir of facts," he didn't find them.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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