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Thread: US financial crisis 'avoidable'

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    US financial crisis 'avoidable'

    Regulators, politicians and bankers were to blame for the 2008 US financial meltdown, a report has claimed.

    The US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, tasked with establishing the causes of the crisis, said it was "avoidable".

    Its report highlighted excessive risk-taking by banks and neglect by financial regulators.

    Only the six Democrat members of the 10-strong commission, set up in May 2009, endorsed the report's findings.

    "The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or models gone haywire," the report said.

    "The captains of finance and the public stewards of our financial system ignored warnings and failed to question, understand and manage evolving risks within a system essential to the well-being of the American public.

    "Theirs was a big miss, not a stumble."

    Ethical breaches
    "The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done”

    The damning report criticised the extent of the financial deregulation overseen by the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan.

    It concluded that the crisis was caused by a number of factors:

    * Failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve's failure "to stem the tide of toxic mortgages"
    * A breakdown in corporate governance that led to "reckless" actions and excessive risk taking by financial institutions
    * Households taking on too much debt
    * A lack of understanding of the financial system on behalf of policymakers
    * Fundamental breaches in accountability and ethics "at all levels".

    It added that "collapsing mortgage-lending standards" and the packaging-up of mortgage-related debt into investment vehicles "lit and spread the flame of contagion".

    These complex derivatives, which were traded in huge volumes by major investment banks, then "contributed significantly to the crisis" when the mortgages they were based on defaulted.

    The report also highlighted the failures of the credit ratings agencies in recognising the risks involved in these and other products.

    Blame game
    Establishing blame was essential in preventing future crises, the report said.

    "Despite the expressed view of many on Wall Street and in Washington that the crisis could not have been foreseen or avoided, there were warning signs," said Phil Angelides, chairman of the commission.

    "The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done.

    "If we accept this notion, it will happen again."

    The commission interviewed more than 700 witnesses and held 19 days of public hearings across the US.

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