Former California Treasurer Angelides to lead financial crisis panel

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Crusading former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides and curmudgeonly retired lawmaker Bill Thomas will lead a commission charged with shining a light on the causes of the financial crisis, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders announced today.

The ten-member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, created in May, is reminiscent of the Depression-era Pecora Commission, a panel created to probe the causes of the 1929 Wall Street crash. After a rocky and unproductive start, it paved the way for the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as other reforms.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.) chose Angelides, who pushed for corporate governance reform as overseer of California's massive public employee pension funds during his eight-year tenure as the state's treasurer, to serve as the commission's chairman.

Thomas, chosen by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to serve as the commission's vice chairman, is the irascible former chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, where he shaped tax and trade policy and oversaw entitlement programs like unemployment insurance and Social Security.

Former corporate executives and lawmakers comprise much of the remainder of the commission's membership.

Democrats also appointed former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.); Symantec (SYMC) Chairman John Thomspon; Brooksley Born, Clinton-era chairwoman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission; Heather Murren, a former managing director in Merrill Lynch's research operation; and Byron Georgiou, a Las Vegas attorney and corporate governance watchdog.

Meanwhile, Republicans chose Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and economic adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during his presidential run last year; Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank; and Keith Hennessey, director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush.

The commission will have until December 2010 to report back to Congress with recommendations on how to avoid another financial collapse. It will have subpoena power, but at least one Republican member will have to vote in favor before it can compel a witness to testify.

The Depression-era panel took its name from Ferdinand Pecora, the chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee, who rescued floundering hearings on the causes of 1929's "Black Tuesday" crash and questioned executives from several high-profile Wall Street banks.
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