Subprime Scandal: We've long suspected the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission wasn't honest in examining events before the meltdown. But an ex-commissioner says the probe was actually a full-blown political cover-up.
In a just-released book, former FCIC member Peter Wallison says that a Democratic Congress worked with the commission's Democratic chairman to whitewash the government's central role in the mortgage debacle. The conspiracy helped protect some of the Democrats' biggest stars from scrutiny and accountability while helping justify the biggest government takeover of the financial sector since the New Deal.
Wallison's sobering, trenchantly written "Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again" reveals that the Democrat-led panel buried key data proving that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies pushed the housing market over the subprime cliff. The final FCIC report put the blame squarely on Wall Street.
In 2009, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed her California pal Phil Angelides, a long-time Democrat operative, to lead the commission. The fix seemed to be in, and Wallison's account of the inner workings of the 10-member body confirms it. Here's what took place during the FCIC's 18-month, $10 million probe:
• Angelides provided no staff to help Wallison and other Republicans interview witnesses, conduct research or draft the report. But commission Democrats were assigned almost 80 staffers to help formulate their single theory that bank risk-taking and greed unleashed by deregulation caused the crisis.
• Angelides never notified Wallison or other commissioners about the hundreds of witnesses he called to testify in closed-door interviews with his staff, denying them the chance to cross-examine the witnesses.
• Staffers failed to put these private witnesses under oath, even though the final report was based almost exclusively on their testimony with little or no documents or data to back up their statements, which simply validated the Democrat narrative.
• Angelides buried evidence revealing that by 2008, three in four high-risk mortgages wound up on the books of HUD-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration. A data-rich memo by former Fannie Mae chief credit officer Ed Pinto proved that government, not the private sector, drove risky lending. But Pinto's research "was never formally made available by the chair or staff to the other members of the FCIC," Wallison writes.
• Angelides withheld the final draft of the report from Wallison and other commissioners until eight days before sending it to the printer, never giving them the time they needed to go over the wording or content of the almost 900-page draft.
• After Wallison filed a 43,000-word dissent, Angelides removed all but 9,000 words of it from the report widely distributed in bookstores.
Angelides effectively censored any hard evidence that the government's housing policies were the predominant cause of the financial crisis. The best-selling report was cooked up from the start.
"The FCIC majority misused its mandate for political purposes," Wallison writes, adding that the panel made sure its findings supported Democrat demands for a "new New Deal" that would put even more of the banking industry under federal control.
Democrats passed the Dodd-Frank Act in July 2010, six months before the FCIC released its report — "a clear demonstration that the Democratic Congress knew well in advance exactly what this well-controlled commission would say." After Dodd-Frank shockingly left Fannie and Freddie untouched, the FCIC excused the glaring oversight by exonerating the toxic twins and their affordable-housing masters at HUD.
As a result, Fannie and Freddie, now under full federal control, are back making low down payment loans to low-income borrowers, and the Dodd-Frank-mandated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is forcing banks to ignore credit risks in the name of affordable housing.
A corrupt investigation led to corrupt reforms. What we need now, in light of Wallison's revelations, is an investigation of the investigation, along with a top-to-bottom review of Dodd-Frank rules. It's necessary that Republicans hold public hearings so Americans will know how they were lied to about the crisis and how they're being led down the garden path.