Pecora

Alan Beattie

The Inquisition Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the non-partisan US investigation into what went wrong, is holding an auto-da-fe hearings this week on lessons learned from the crisis. A bit late, frankly, since it is due to report by the end of the year, and the financial regulatory bill is supposed to be done and dusted well before then.

Perhaps instead it can act as a truth and reconciliation commission, or a historical re-enactment society. One of the panel’s victims guests is Chuck Prince, the former Citibank head of “as long as the music’s playing, you’ve got to get up and dance” notoriety, whose bank was eventually rescued by the government for a huge outlay. The historical model for the FCIC is the Pecora Commission, named after the aggressive counsel on the Senate banking committee who tenaciously pursued miscreants and whose investigations led to sweeping federal financial regulation. One of his most notable targets was Charles Mitchell, head of the National City Bank of New York, the speculative behaviour of which was widely blamed for contributing to the stock market crash. And National City Bank later turned into….Citibank. Some things never change.