New Questions About the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
- The report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) is frequently cited as the authoritative source for the causes of the 2008 crisis, but its key findings are contradicted by documents in its own files that were never disclosed in its final report.
- By 2008, most mortgages in the US were subprime or otherwise weak. Of these risky loans, 76 percent were on the books of government agencies, principally Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- The FCIC claimed that Fannie and Freddie bought these loans primarily because they were profitable, and not because of the government’s housing policies—particularly the affordable housing goals.
- However, the FCIC documents discussed in this paper show that Fannie and Freddie knew these loans would be unprofitable and in some cases loss-producing.
- As a government study commission, the FCIC failed in its obligation to report fairly on all the evidence it collected, not just the evidence for the story it wanted to tell.
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) is often cited as the definitive source for information about the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. I was a member of the FCIC and dissented from its majority report, which was issued in January 2011. However, in my subsequent research for a book on the financial crisis, I found that the principal findings and conclusions in the commission’s report were contradicted by materials in the commission’s own files—materials that were never made available to me or, I believe, to the FCIC’s other members. Whether this was error or deception is not clear, but clearly, a major report by a publicly funded commission appointed by Congress did not adequately inform the American people or their representatives.
Thus, despite a charge to inform the American people, Congress, and the president about why the US experienced a financial crisis, the FCIC failed in this mission, and its majority report should not be regarded as the definitive account of what caused the 2008 financial crisis.