Stephen Foley: Bankers forced to face their failings in 'modern Pecora'

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The Independent Online

In the depths of the Great Depression, with the Wall Street Crash that triggered it still fresh, a Congressional body called the Pecora Commission hauled executives over the coals, extracted confessions of outrageous wrongdoing and demanded reforms that shaped finance for 50 years. If the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission does a fraction of that, it will make a huge impact.

Phil Angelides, the Californian politician appointed to head the FCIC, is no Ferdinand Pecora. The latter, a New York attorney, was only the legal counsel, but his dogged questioning of Wall Street grandees made him the public face of its work.

Still, Mr Angelides was laying up his credentials in his face-off with Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs yesterday. The Wall Street executives before the panel on day one of the hearings were warned that this will not be their only stint in the hot seat. The bipartisan commission's vice-chairman, a Republican former Congressman called Bill Thomas, invited the general public to submit questions and promised to put them to the chief executives.

This modern-day investigation has been modelled not on Pecora but on the 9/11 Commission, which acted as a bipartisan blueprint for reforming intelligence gathering and homeland security.

The FCIC has been asked to report on 22 factors in the onset of the crisis, from fraud and due diligence failings to monetary policy and regulation. Recommendations are due on the President's desk by 15 December.