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Reading the findings this morning about how
executives went about destroying a bank that was too big to fail reminded me that perhaps it's time for the investigators, whether they be from Congress or the Angelides Commission -- the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that is supposed to tell this country what really happened -- to interview the real bad guys, the guys who bankrupted and crushed their own institutions.
The notion of endlessly keelhauling Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon -- the CEOs of the two best-run banks,
-- does nothing for me. They didn't destroy the system. The notion of berating Vikram Pandit, the man who works 24/7 to put
on a new, profitable footing, leaves me cold, too. He's doing a fabulous job rehabilitating a once-great franchise.
So, in order for the Angelides Commission to better do its job (as that is the front-and-center investigation), first I would like to be called to testify to give them an overview of what really went on. I would come down with a list of people to be subpoenaed -- let me share with you that list, because it is made up of reckless businesspeople, the ones who crushed their own companies, who can tell us more about what really happened than any of the winners.
Who is on that witness list? I would like to hear from Jimmy Cayne, former CEO of
, and Richard Fuld of Lehman about how to get around the capital requirements and jam clients with faulty merchandise. How do you hide bad paper? How do you disguise what you are doing? How do you have no risk controls? How do you abdicate all responsibility and surrender to greed over prudence?
I'd like to hear from the hedge funds that bought these dubious mortgages from Lehman and Bear to reach for yield with the use of massive leverage provided by these firms in order to pump up everyone's short-term profits well beyond reason. How can we rein them in? They are still unregulated and answer to no one.
I would like to hear from Franklin Raines at
( FNM) why his company suspended all judgment about risk and took in mortgage portfolio rather than simply packaging them and selling them --
as was the mandate
-- in order to pump up short-term earnings. Was it because Raines was running a sophisticated pump-and-dump operation? Was it because he was under pressure from Congress, including some of the biggest finger-pointers, to lower underwriting standards? Why? How can we be sure it doesn't happen again?
Anyone want to hear about how Kerry Killinger wrecked
with ridiculous underwriting standards? Washington Mutual was the largest bank failure ever. Why not bring in the man behind that catastrophe? I think that he's worth hearing from. How about Angelo Mozillo of
, to learn about how the real mortgage game works, with the fees and the high-pressure tactics? Ken Lewis should be called in to explain why he couldn't see things coming at
Bank of America
. How about Ken Thompson and Bob Steel from
to talk about Thompson's reckless overexpansion or how Bob Steel came on "Mad Money" to talk about a solid portfolio that turned out to be anything but? Why not haul in Chuck Prince to see why the U.S. government ultimately had to buy a third of Citigroup to keep it from failing? I'd like to hear from the behind-the-scenes folks who allowed
to have no underwriting standards to speak of. I would like to hear from Martin Sullivan and this fellow Joe Cassano over at
about how you could write billions of dollars in policies that we are all on the hook for. Why not bring in the Wharton professors who blessed AIG's model? Do we need federal regulation of insurance? Are the regulators sophisticated enough and powerful enough to enforce the laws? Does Congress get in the way of that enforcement, because where was the sainted FDIC in all of this?
Would it be so bad to hear the heads of
Standard and Poor's
to see what the heck they were doing, or should they just give up their watchdog role entirely because they were so utterly compromised by payments from issuers? The agencies awarded subprime -- totally unworthy paper -- with their highest ratings, AAA.
How could that happen?
How about the public insurers, the
( ABK) and the
, municipal bond insurers who ended up backing products they knew nothing about and making them palatable to buyers who didn't know better? Let's talk to their regulators who I know, from personal experience, didn't understand these new business lines at all but said nothing even though they were supposed to be protecting the interests of municipal bond holders who were compromised by this new business?
That's the list of people who need to be talked to, not Lloyd Blankfein, Vikram Pandit, or Jamie Dimon. They didn't do the things we are now trying to prevent -- they avoided them or tried to ameliorate them. What the heck do they know about getting around banking capital requirements or sneaking past regulators? What do they know about wrecking their own firms, causing us to bail them out. They didn't do that.
So, there's the list. Let's hear from the guys who did bad, not the guys who did good. Let's get 'em under oath. Let's find out what really happened.
Then it would be worth listening to. If you want to know how to steal and loot a bank, you don't call the bankers who didn't let it happen. You call Willie Sutton and his accomplices. Let's see some Suttons. Make 'em squirm. Make 'em tell the truth. I like a good show trial as much as the next guy, but only if it's the villains getting tried, not the innocent.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.
Jim Cramer, co-founder and chairman of TheStreet.com, writes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's RealMoney and runs the charitable trust portfolio,
. He also participates in video segments on TheStreet.com TV and serves as host of CNBC's "Mad Money" television program.
Mr. Cramer graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, where he was president of The Harvard Crimson. He worked as a journalist at the Tallahassee Democrat and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, covering everything from sports to homicide before moving to New York to help start American Lawyer magazine. After a three-year stint, Mr. Cramer entered Harvard Law School and received his J.D. in 1984. Instead of practicing law, however, he joined Goldman Sachs, where he worked in sales and trading. In 1987, he left Goldman to start his own hedge fund. While he worked at his fund, Mr. Cramer helped start Smart Money for Dow Jones and then, in 1996, he co-founded TheStreet.com, of which he is chairman and where he has served as a columnist and contributor since. In 2000, Mr. Cramer retired from active money management to embrace media full time, including radio and television.
Mr. Cramer is the author of "
," "You Got Screwed," "Jim Cramer's Real Money," "Jim Cramer's Mad Money," "Jim Cramer's Stay Mad for Life" and, most recently, "Jim Cramer's Getting Back to Even." He has written for Time magazine and New York magazine and has been featured on CBS' 60 Minutes, NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams, Meet the Press, Today, The Tonight Show, Late Night and MSNBC's Morning Joe.