Marketplace Scratch Pad

Will we get some answers?

Scott Jagow Jan 8, 2010

Next week, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission begins almost a year’s worth of public hearings to try and understand what cause our economic meltdown. The first testimony will come from top executives at the major Wall Street banks. Some commission members want to know what you’d like to ask these CEOs.

Confirmed to testify on Wednesday and Thursday: Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Morgan Stanley Chairman John Mack and the new CEO at Bank of America, Brian Moynihan.

The FCIC’s chairman is Phil Angelides, former California state treasurer. He’s promised “tough, probing and fair” questions of the bankers. The LA Times says they better deliver:

It’ll be interesting to see the tone the panel adopts in dealing with the bankers. If the hearings are too civil, and none of the panel members chooses to ask tough questions that could make the bankers squirm, the American public might quickly conclude that nothing substantive will come of this investigation. It could become irrelevant before it gets momentum.

Here’s a Marketplace interview with Angelides from a few months ago. The FCIC’s is supposed to produce its findings by December 15th. It sounds like it’ll be something akin to the 9/11 commission’s work – a book that seeks to tell us what happened. But FCIC faces some obstacles. From the Washington Post:

House and Senate leaders, who appointed six Democrats and four Republicans to the commission, allocated $8 million for its work, enough to hire about 50 investigators but “probably less than any of the investment banks will spend dealing with this investigation,” Angelides said.

The tight timetable also makes it impossible to produce a comprehensive account of the crisis, both men said. Instead, the commission will focus its work on particular topics, perhaps producing a series of case studies, Angelides said.

One of the more active commission members so far seems to be Keith Hennessey, a former Bush economic adviser. He’s asking for your input on the questions he should ask the bankers next week:

While I will consider questions on any topic related to our mission, when thinking about large financial institutions, I am most interested in questions surrounding the too big to fail concept. I am also quite comfortable asking prospective questions about how well-prepared we are to prevent the next crisis, whatever that may be.

Read more about the commission members and their task here.

This is the commission’s official website, but it’s not operational yet. I hear it will launch on Tuesday. You’ll be able to watch the hearings there, and I assume on C-Span and the like.

If you were a panel member, what would you ask the bankers next week?

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