Why are Half of the FCIC Interviews Being Withheld?

The FCIC has made a great show of being transparent, but if you are going to make that your signature, you can’t engage in halfway measures. Lambert Strether, in an e-mail titled “A data conversion effort that shows FCIC’s “Resource Library” is farcically bad and obfuscatory” noted:

Obviously, any independent evaluation of the material is not at all a priority with these guys. Yes, they’ve made it easy enough to DISTRIBUTE, and no doubt there will be an iPhone app any day now. Yay. But as far as making it easy to EVALUATE, which takes data you can interchange and manipulate and search, everything they have done makes that harder. Every single thing.

More tooth gnashing from Lambert here and here.

Another mystery is why so many interviews are being withheld. When they interviewed me in November (and yes, sports fans, my interview is up on the FCIC site), I was informed that 600 interviews would be released. I’m told by people close to the investigation that not all interviews were recorded; this was an oversight early in the process, but starting in July, all were apparently taped.

Now we already know that interviews of Certain Big Kahunas are being withheld, most notably that of Ben Bernanke (which was conducted in 2009 and thus illustrates that at least some of the pre-July sessions were recorded).

But that is not a sufficient explanation. The FCIC’s press release indicates that the staff met with over 700 witnesses; only “more than 300” are to be made public, with 213 released initially and the rest added by now, since the FCIC is now officially no more.

Our Tom Adams was interviewed in December and his conversation was not posted. Why would this be? His position is contrary to the report’s narrative; is that why he was excluded? Or is there a less nefarious reason why he and many others were left on the cutting room floor: that they weren’t name brands? For my taste, far too many of the well known individuals included in the roster were economists who were simply not close enough to what happened to provide much in the way of new perspective.

Given in my experience of doing research into complex topics (and prosecutors echo my views), the most insightful commentary rarely comes from the top brass but instead from operating level managers. The lack of analysis in the report (except on the role of the GSEs) gives some support to our theory that the Commission and staff were short on people who understood tradecraft in the relevant markets. That make it likely that they could have overlooked the significance of information provided to them by market participants.

The fact that the Commission appears to have focused on better known names suggests that they have held back material that included key bits of information that people who understood the products and markets could use to either connect dots or confirm theories they have had about the crisis.

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  1. Daniel Plainview

    The truth of the matter is three ProPublica reports probably could give us a more accurate picture of what was happening than Philip Angelides (who appears a well intentioned person but largely clueless) and big bank lapdogs (in my OPINION) like Peter Wallison.




    Sorry, but if you want to find out what happened inside the oligopolist banks with the derivatives blowup you don’t ask members of AEI (American Enterprise Institute) to join in, which is packed with right wing war-mongers who could care less when very responsible people who just lost their job are thrown out of their homes or forfeited their child’s future college tuition for fear of being labeled a “deadbeat”.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have to say ProPublica is not on our favored nation list. They’ve repeatedly published stories in this space AFTER us, with less analysis and more narrative, which is crowd pleasing but does not add to understanding. And they’ve either failed to give us credit at all or been very stingy.

      We’ve quit complaining in posts, but it’s annoying as hell. And we are not the only ones they have given short shrift to:



  2. Daniel Plainview

    ProPublica can go through the public record same as anyone. ZeroHedge posted earlier on Bernanke’s FCIC interview being withheld. ZeroHedge posts many things before you do—do you want to give them “credit” for that??? You going to file patents on public discourse???

    I wouldn’t cry wolf too many times if I were you…. after awhile it gets lost in the din.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you bother to acquaint yourself with the particulars of our record on these matters before going off half cocked. You did not bother to read the links. ProPublica in one case claimed to have broken a story when there was in fact prior reporting from multiple sources, and in another went out of its way to MINIMIZE our work, to actively tell its audience we had done far less than we had on the Magnetar story.

      In addition, we’ve done extensive original reporting on CDOs, considerably more than any other site. I’m well within my rights to claim leadership on this beat.

      And citing ZH as a standard is a pretty dubious claim. I give credit to my sources. By contrast, ZH takes credit for “original” reporting when it is often not theirs at all, including republishing Wall Street research and even Federal Reserve reports as their own. The FCIC withholding of the Bernanke interview was on Bloomberg before it was on ZH. The latest example I happened to come across of ZH taking credit for another site’s work was this story: http://bostonreview.net/BR36.1/rosen.php, which it noisy tried to imply was an exclusive. And I very rarely read ZH, it’s typically wrong on my main areas of interest (credit markets and economics), so it was sheer happenstance that I saw it.

    2. Frankie

      I don’t recon seeing you around aplenty, mate. So, just to get the look and feel of the house, wouldn’t it be elementary courtesy to read a bit, dig in the archives, ID the trends and threads?

      After all, I’m pretty sure you do not want to fall prey to the Kendrik curse, right?

  3. Norman

    Say D.P., You read like a bunch of others over at ProPublica, a great many are trolls, of which by you use of the words, you read like one too. Cheers.

  4. Tim Solanic

    The reason is simple why they aren’t published yet – a shitload of people haven’t raised enough hell yet to make it happen.
    From Feb 2010:

    How many people thought standing peacefully in a park for a few weeks would over throw a dictator-billionaire?

    If there was a coordinated, clever campaign to raise the right kind of hell – all the FCIC docs would be published somehow. Then let the civil/criminal cases begin.

    1. Cedric Regula

      The cynic in me always comes up with ways to rain on our parade and take our happy thoughts and cast them in to the oblivion of deep depression, but I did read somewhere that there is a statute of limitations on fraud. How many years I don’t recall, but the bomb crew may diffuse this into the annals of unrecorded history before too long.

      But law is another area where I’m woefully unequipped to deal with this “issue”, so I don’t know if that’s true or not.

  5. lambert strether

    Yves, thanks for the link!

    I want to say, though, that “tooth gnashing” would imply I had dental, and having dental would imply a national health care system worthy of the name (say, Medicare for All). Right now, it’s far too risky for me to gnash my teeth. I pound the keyboard instead!

  6. Allen C

    I have no reason to doubt Bill Black. It seems more than probable that crimes were committed. The mysteries become clearer when one adopts a Control Fraud perspective.

    The populace at large is not ready to demand a real commission and the politicians are uninterested in providing one. At this point any prosecution is likely to result in inconsequential penalties. A major corporation could receive an inconsequential fine for first degree murder as long as it manages to obfuscate the facts.

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