Today, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, established by Congress to investigate the causes of the financial market collapse, will hold its first public meeting. The choice in front of us is stark. The public is concerned and rightfully so. Will we take this opportunity to find out what caused the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression and learn how to prevent its recurrence? Or will we squander this moment in deference to powerful interests and some of the very people whose reckless actions harmed our society -- at the peril of our security and the very fabric that is the essence of a civil society?
Like you, we at the Roosevelt Institute want to know what happened, who was responsible, and how we can stop this from happening again. We believe it is essential for the restoration of public trust -- both in government and in the financial sector -- that the Commission undertake a rigorous investigation that leaves no stone unturned. In July, 2009, we -- along with several distinguished colleagues -- wrote an open letter to the Commission requesting the adoption of guidelines critical to the success of the investigation. Hundreds of concerned citizens have added their signatures to this letter, stating a strong desire for a Commission with teeth and an honest, substantive inquiry. The Roosevelt Institute's blog, New Deal 2.0, has published a series of articles about the Commission and its predecessor, the Pecora Commission of the 1930s that led to sweeping reforms that protected the public from financial abuses.
The three key recommendations outlined in our letter are as follows:
1. Appoint a single investigator. This individual must have a proven record of exposing fraudulent elites and institutions, and must provide a professional, non-political spirit to the investigation.
2. Afford no special treatment. No one is off-limits or gets special protection in the investigation.
3. Provide the tools to do the job. The investigator must be given ample budget and time, full subpoena authority, and the ability to hire and fire staff.
We are pleased the Commission has adopted our first recommendation by appointing Thomas Greene as Executive Director of the Commission. We urge you to now embrace our second and third recommendations so that Mr. Greene and the Commission may complete their charge.
Commission Chairman Phil Angelides has described himself as inspired by the example of Ferdinand Pecora, lead investigator for a similar commission in the Roosevelt era after the Crash of 1929. Mr. Angelides has defined the Commission's challeng to "take a non-political hard look in seeking the truth."
By taking lessons from the original commission in its design and execution, this commission can do just that. In doing so, it can ensure that we understand what caused the crisis, restore confidence and protect the nation's future.
Originally published on New Deal 2.0.