J.P. Freire: Financial panel mum on conflicts of interest 

When The Washington Examiner first reported on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, officials with the panel refused to disclose how it was spending its $8 million taxpayer-funded budget.

Former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides is chairman of the FCIC, which is supposed to report back to Congress on Dec. 15.

We asked whom it hired, what positions they filled, and how much they were being paid to do the work of the commission that Congress appointed to determine the causes of the economic collapse of 2008. Commission officials refused to answer those questions.

Now we know why.

An Examiner inquiry found multiple FCIC employees who either are or appear to be former employees of many of the very Wall Street firms at the heart of the collapse, including Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and JP Morgan.

Take, for example, "senior financial investigator" Carl McCarden, who was touted in an FCIC press release announcing his appointment as having significant experience "in investment banking at both Credit Suisse and Bear Stearns."

The professional social networking Web site LinkedIn says McCarden also volunteered for the Obama for America campaign committee for 10 months between February and November 2008.

Then there's former Goldman Sachs employee Desmond Duncker, whose title commission officials refused to disclose. And "senior investigator" Tom Borgers, whose credentials as a former investigator at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. were surely mentioned as an asset, but not his 21 years as a Wall Street executive for JP Morgan.

An Examiner request to interview Borgers was denied.

We also found, for instance, that Dixie Noonan, senior counsel for the FCIC, worked for law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP, which includes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac among its clients, according to Wikipedia.

And FCIC investigative counsel Mina Simhai apparently shares a name with the former associate at Hogan and Hartson, which helped defend WorldCom Chief Executive Officer Bernard Ebbers against securities and Employee Retirement Income Security Act class-action lawsuits.

Noonan and Simhai may well have had nothing to do with those clients, but neither of them returned The Examiner's telephone call seeking comment, and FCIC spokesman Tucker Warren wouldn't say.

When we asked Warren about apparent conflicts of interest, he said he wasn't aware of any. In fact, Warren was emphatic that he would not provide any biographical information on personnel other than selectively confirming what we asked of him.

This is typical. We noted in a May 28 editorial that the FCIC was refusing to provide a staff list, salaries and job descriptions. Warren had said: "We're not giving it to you and haven't given it to anyone. Sorry -- this hasn't been a problem for anyone else."

Other outlets, including CNBC and The Washington Times, started asking questions, too. Without much explanation, the commission announced it would release the names of all employees of the commission at the end of every quarter. The first such list included names, but no salary information, job descriptions or titles.

Warren also refused to provide any information about contractors that might be providing services to the commission.

FCIC chief Angelides has so far made clear that the taxpayer is not welcome to this information. Such is the contradictory guiding philosophy of a commission that purports to shine light in dark places.

J.P. Freire is associate editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at jpfreire@washingtonexaminer.com. Examiner interns Joel S. Gehrke Jr., Alan P. Yarborough and Anna Dorminey contributed to this report.

About The Author

J.P. Freire

J.P. Freire is the associate editor of commentary. Previously he was the managing editor of the American Spectator. Freire was named journalist of the year for 2009 by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). You can follow him on Twitter here. Besides the Spectator, Freire's work has appeared in... more
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