Several major bank executives finally admitted to missteps during the 2008 financial crisis during a January 13 hearing on Capitol Hill.
“People are angry. They have a right to be,” Chairman Phil Angelides of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, or FCIC, told ABC News. “The fact is that Wall Street is enjoying record profits and bonuses in the wake of receiving trillions of dollars in government assistance while so many families are struggling to stay afloat.”
The ten-member commission was appointed by both Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress, and consists of government economic officials, outside experts, and former politicians. The commission is tasked with investigating the causes of the financial crisis of the last two years. The January 13 hearing was the commission’s first, and a final report is due in December.
While the bank executives did finally own up to not making the right decisions, they claimed their choices stemmed from negligence, not an intent to wrong American citizens.
“Somehow, we just missed, you know, that home prices don’t go up forever,” JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said during the hearing. “No institution, including our own, should be too big to fail.”
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein admitted that his firm didn’t see the risks “as clearly as I would have hoped.”
However, Blankfein was rebuked during the hearing when he compared the crisis to four hurricanes hitting the East Coast in a single year.
“These were acts of men and women,” Angelides retorted. “These were controllable.”
Although they took responsibility for their mistakes, bank leaders would not answer questions about why they gave out billions in bonuses using federal bailout funds. Their refusal to explain their actions has prompted President Obama to attempt to recover those taxpayer dollars with a federal fee on those who use the funds for that purpose.
Obama admitted that some financial institutions are already claiming economic hardship in an attempt to stave off this charge.
“Like clockwork, the banks and politicians who curry their favor are already trying to stop this fee from going into effect,” Obama said during his weekly radio address. “The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty.”