Why are Half of the FCIC Interviews Being Withheld?

Published on naked capitalism, by blog owner Yves Smith, February 14, 2011.

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 (11 pdf-pages) 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 … //

…  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. (full text).

Links:

Official Website of The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission FCIC;

Profiles and photos of commissioners, 8 pdf-pages;

US Financial Crisis Was Avoidable, edited first on Al Jazeera: Commission blames regulators and banks, January 28, 2011 – re-edited by the Real News Network, same day, 1.48 min;

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission collected news and commentary at The New York Times;

Official live streaming video of the proceedings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission:

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