Public Policy

On January 27, 2011, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released their final report on the causes of the financial crisis. In the FCIC press release Commission Chairman Phil Angelides said, “the crisis was avoidable-a result of human actions, inactions and misjudgments; warning signs were ignored.” In an interview on the PBS Newhour Chairman Angelides added that “None of what happened was an act of God.” The six Democratic appointees of the Commission supported these conclusions but the four Republican members wrote two separate dissents.

Speaking for the dissenting commissioners Douglas Holtz-Eakin outlined “three levels of disagreement.” The written dissenting review of Commissioners Keith Hennessey, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Vice Chairman Bill Thomas cited ten major causes for the financial crisis. The second dissent, authored by Commissioner Peter Wallision, blamed housing policies during the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as the major causes of the financial crisis not “deregulation, lack of regulation, predatory lending or other factors that were cited in the report.”

Despite the partisan skirmish over the findings of the FCIC final report, the investigation reviewed “millions of pages of documents, interviewed more that 700 witnesses, and held 19 days of public hearings. Besides a final report, the FCIC resource library contains scores of accessible original source material including interviews, testimony, and staff reports.

Financial regulatory reforms will be at the top of the nation’s economic, housing and urban policy agenda for years to come. Whether as result of inadequate regulatory oversight, ill-defined home ownership goals, or simply the acts of irresponsible homeowners, the appropriate response to the finance crisis will depend on lessons learned and on our understanding of events leading to the subsequent mortgage collapse.

Next Page: The Clinton Administration Home Ownership Policy