In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, bankers weren't just held accountable, they were humiliated. Writing for Vanity Fair, historian Alan Brinkley looks at the agent of that humiliation: the Pecora Commission, a nasty, combative affair. The brilliant cross-examiner Ferdinand Pecora grilled the likes of JP Morgan Jr. for days on end, trying to "lift the veil on the clubby, secretive world of banking."
By contrast, today “Congress has been remarkably decorous about investigating” the financial crisis, Brinkley writes. There have been no marathon testimony sessions, no one has been embarrassed. Pecora's hearings rallied public support behind the sweeping changes of Glass-Steagall; President Obama's more modest proposal faces broad Republican opposition. Pecora, by the way, predicted all this. He once wrote that the forces behind the crash still existed: “It cannot be doubted that, given a suitable opportunity, they would spring back into pernicious activity.”