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13 January 2010

Where is Britain’s “Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission“?

Free-market America is doing more to hold its greedy bankers to account than we are

By Mehdi Hasan

Have you heard of the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC)? It holds its first public hearing today.

From the BBC website:

The ten-member panel was established by Congress to examine the causes of the 2008 US financial crisis.

It will examine the “root causes of the crisis, hearing testimony on the causes and current state of the crisis” from private- and public-sector leaders.

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Witnesses will include top executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

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Findings and the report of the panel, which has been given a reported budget of $8m to carry out its task, will be presented to Congress and President Barack Obama by 15 December.

So where is our equivalent commission here in Britain? Why has Gordon Brown not taken a leaf out of Barack Obama’s book? Will we ever stand up to the almighty, unrepentant, bonus-rich bankers?

The US commission kicks off public hearings the day after the RBS boss Stephen Hester sat before a committee of MPs and confessed:

If you ask my mother and father about my pay they’d say it was too high . . . some people close to me have that view of bankers.

Hester stands to earn almost £10m over three years.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Authority has disclosed that it is running forensic investigations into the failure of leading British banks such as RBS and HBOS but, bizarrely and outrageously, intends to keep the conclusions confidential.

Vince Cable — a man I’ve criticised in the past — is spot-on when he says:

There is a public interest in finding out what happened. There is no justification for covering up major errors.

Cable adds that there is “an argument for an independent, public review into what happened at the banks”, much like the Iraq inquiry.

Will we get it? I doubt it. Despite everything, the bankers are still riding high. The City is virtually untouchable. There will be no commission of inquiry — and it is difficult to disagree with Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian:

The banks have not collapsed. They have been rescued at the truly vast cost of £800bn of public money, and the culture of greed that occasioned that rescue remains intact. No one is lifting a finger.