Legislation & Lobbying

US Panel Blames Corporate Greed, Fed and SEC, Among Others, For 2008 Financial Meltdown

Corporate greed, excessive risk-taking on Wall Street and a failure by key government regulators to do their jobs were among major factors that led to the financial meltdown of 2008, a congressional panel has found.

In a report expected to be released Thursday as a 576-page book, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission blamed what the New York Times (reg. req.) describes as “bumbling incompetence” among corporate chiefs, as well as what the report characterizes as regulators who “lacked the political will” to regulate.

In addition to pointing the finger at the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the report notes that the nation’s five largest investment banks had only $1 in capital to cover every $40 or so in assets. That meant that a 3 percent drop in the value of the assets could have wiped them out, but this scary situation was hidden by bookkeeping that relied on devices such as derivatives and off-balance-sheet entries, the newspaper recounts.

Meanwhile, it says of the banks that created a mortgage meltdown by packaging individual mortgages in trillions of dollars worth of securities that allowed the loan contracts to be bought and sold by investors in fractional amounts, “Like Icarus, they never feared flying ever closer to the sun.”

Although the panel is bipartisan, only the six Democrats joined in its findings.

Those blamed in the report or their representatives either declined to comment or didn’t return messages, the newspaper says.

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