The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) -- which was formed to find and examine the causes behind the 2008 financial near-collapse -- cited failures by the both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, and also pointed fingers at former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as being factors behind the crisis and the ensuing $700 billion bailout of financial institutions.
The full report will be released in a 576-page book tomorrow which will include testimony and documents from both government agencies and private financial institutions.
The preliminary report accuses Alan Greenspan of not performing his regulatory duties as Chairman because he personally didn’t believe in them. Instead, the report says, he focused on allowing the credit bubble to expand between 2000-2008, and that his advocacy of financial deregulation allowed for the swelling in the number of toxic mortgages that were handed out.
Greenspan also was criticized for “creating increased risks” by artificially lowering the Federal funds rate after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks to a record low of 25 basis points.
The report also criticizes the Bush Administration for its “inconsistent response” to the crisis, most notably, saving Bear Stearns but allowing Lehman Brothers to go under.
Henry Paulson Jr., the Treasury Secretary during the Bush administration, was cited as wrongly predicting in 2007 that the subprime meltdown would be contained.
The report also criticized current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was the New York Fed President in 2008, of “failing to clamp down on excesses by Citigroup that led to the crisis.”
One of the reports’ biggest criticisms was levelled at credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s for giving positive ratings to bonds backed by toxic mortgages. The report labeled the ratings agencies as “cogs in the wheel of financial destruction.”
The report also states what, in large part, the public already knows, that Citigroup, American International Group and Merrill Lynch failed to recognize or guard against risks associated with bad or questionable mortgage practices.
For example, the report attacks AIG for not taking into account the $79 billion exposure it had to credit default swaps mainly tied to mortgage-backed securities, which in turn are backed by peoples’ abilities to make their mortgage payments.
Additionally, Citigroup officials admitted to not taking into account the risks associated with mortgage-backed bonds in its stress-testing models.
The report cites that Merrill executives were so blind to the mortgage situation in the U.S. that “they were surprised when the mortgage-backed securities market suddenly resulted in billions of dollars in losses.