History of the Commission

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was created to "examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States." The Commission was established as part of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (Public Law 111-21) passed by Congress and signed by the President in May 2009. This independent, 10-member panel was composed of private citizens with experience in areas such as housing, economics, finance, market regulation, banking and consumer protection. Six members of the Commission were appointed by the Democratic leadership of Congress and four by the Republican leadership. The Commission’s statutory instructions set out 22 specific topics for inquiry and called for the examination of the collapse of major financial institutions that failed or would have failed if not for exceptional assistance from the government. These include:

  • fraud and abuse in the financial sector, including fraud and abuse toward consumers in the mortgage sector;
  • Federal and State financial regulators, including the extent to which they enforced, or failed to enforce statutory, regulatory, or supervisory requirements;
  • the global imbalance of savings, international capital flows, and fiscal imbalances of various governments;
  • monetary policy and the availability and terms of credit;
  • accounting practices, including, mark-to-market and fair value rules, and treatment of off-balance sheet vehicles;
  • tax treatment of financial products and investments;
  • capital requirements and regulations on leverage and liquidity, including the capital structures of regulated and non-regulated financial entities;
  • credit rating agencies in the financial system, including, reliance on credit ratings by financial institutions and Federal financial regulators, the use of credit ratings in financial regulation, and the use of credit ratings in the securitization markets;
  • lending practices and securitization, including the originate-to-distribute model for extending credit and transferring risk;
  • affiliations between insured depository institutions and securities, insurance, and other types of nonbanking companies;
  • the concept that certain institutions are 'too-big-to-fail' and its impact on market expectations;
  • corporate governance, including the impact of company conversions from partnerships to corporations;
  • compensation structures;
  • changes in compensation for employees of financial companies, as compared to compensation for others with similar skill sets in the labor market;
  • the legal and regulatory structure of the United States housing market;
  • derivatives and unregulated financial products and practices, including credit default swaps;
  • short-selling;
  • financial institution reliance on numerical models, including risk models and credit ratings;
  • the legal and regulatory structure governing financial institutions, including the extent to which the structure creates the opportunity for financial institutions to engage in regulatory arbitrage;
  • the legal and regulatory structure governing investor and mortgagor protection;
  • financial institutions and government-sponsored enterprises; and
  • the quality of due diligence undertaken by financial institutions;

On January 27, 2011 the Commission delivered its report to the President, Congress and the American people. The operations of the Commission will conclude on February 13, 2011.