28 Jan 2011

Blame for 2008 financial meltdown apportioned

4:59 pm on 28 January 2011

A Financial Crisis Commission in the United States has found that regulators, politicians and bankers were to blame for the 2008 financial meltdown.

The commission was trying to establish the causes of the crisis and says the economic crisis was avoidable.

The report highlights excessive risk-taking by banks and neglect by financial regulators.

However, only the six Democrat members of the commission, set up in May 2009, endorsed the findings.

The report criticised the extent of the financial deregulation overseen by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.

The commission interviewed more than 700 witnesses and held 19 days of public hearings across the United States.

It concluded that the crisis was caused by a number of factors:

Failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve's failure "to stem the tide of toxic mortgages"

A breakdown in corporate governance that led to "reckless" actions and excessive risk taking by financial institutions

Households taking on too much debt

A lack of understanding of the financial system on the part of policymakers

Fundamental breaches in accountability and ethics "at all levels".

It added that "collapsing mortgage-lending standards" and the packaging-up of mortgage-related debt into investment vehicles "lit and spread the flame of contagion".

These complex derivatives, which were traded in huge volumes by major investment banks, then "contributed significantly to the crisis" when the mortgages they were based on defaulted.

The report also highlighted "abysmal" failures of credit ratings agencies in recognising the risks involved in these and other products.


All four Republicans on the commission announced several weeks ago that they would not agree with its findings.

They have pointed to the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgage agencies, whose subsidised lending they claim inflated the bubble.

They have also argued that legislation introduced by former Democratic President Bill Clinton encouraged excessive and reckless lending to low income households.