The Accidental History of the Federal Securities and Banking Laws: A Review of Michael Perino's Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora's Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance
Securities Regulation Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1, Spring 2011
10 Pages Posted: 17 May 2011 Last revised: 23 Jun 2011
Date Written: March 1, 2011
This essay reviews Perino's timely, well-written, and meticulously researched book on Ferdinand Pecora's 1933 investigative hearings into the malfeasance of Wall Street banks and securities dealers preceding the Great Crash. The essay, after summarizing Perino's main contributions, argues that the Pecora Commission enjoyed extraordinary measures of luck and casting that captured the attention of the American public in a way that the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, its 2008 successor, has failed to do. The essay argues that the unfavorable comparisons drawn between the FCIC and the Pecora Commission -- always to the former's detriment -- are too hard on the FCIC, too complimentary to Pecora. While Gibbon may be right that "the wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators," the fact remains that the Pecora Commission enjoyed a great deal more favorable wind and waves than the FCIC, at every juncture. The role of luck in the success of such Commissions can be easily forgotten, but shouldn't be if we are to take fullest advantage of value of Congressional inquiries in general, the FCIC in particular.
Keywords: FCIC, Congressional Commissions, financial crisis, banking law, securities regulation, SEC, Pecora
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