As cameras clacked Wednesday, four of America’s highest financial fliers — Lloyd C Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, John J Mack of Morgan Stanley and Brian T Moynihan of Bank of America — took their places before the 10-member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that is charged with determining the causes of USA’s financial debacle.
For those anticipating a cathartic ceremony of dressing-downs and apologies, there was little of it during the three-and-a-half-hour hearing.
The initial round of questions and responses provoked disapproval, a few pointed fingers and sporadic shows of humility from the witnesses. “If you do everything right in business, you’re going to make mistakes,” said Dimon.
Labored metaphors abounded. Phil Angelides, the former state treasurer of California, who is the commission’s chairman, told Blankfein that he sounded like he was selling cars with faulty brakes and then buying insurance on the driver.
Commissioner Byron S Georgiou noted that the banks had “eaten their own cooking”. Mack agreed: “We did eat our own cooking,” he said. “And we choked on it.”
Finally, before lunchtime, when Angelides dismissed the executives, a reporter asked Mack if the experience had been fun. “Well,” he said, “it’s just something that we had to do.”
Why were the chief executives not more apologetic? a reporter asked Dimon. People “have to be very specific” when asking for apologies, Dimon cautioned.
He squared his shoulders and headed for the back door, only to meet Jonathan Karl of ABC. “Mr Dimon, does Wall Street get it?” Karl asked, but the banker kept walking.