Opinion

Commentary: Wall Street leaders fail to accept responsibility for meltdown

More than two years after the onset of the economic collapse, some of the nation's leading bankers remain in denial about their role in bringing about one of the biggest recessions in U.S. history.

That much was evident from the first hearing of the special committee trying to figure out what happened and why. The first witnesses called last week by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission featured leaders of four big Wall Street banks, who spoke in numbing, technical detail about the collapse, as if boring their listeners to death might absolve the bankers of any blame.

Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, didn't want to talk about how his institution was fleecing its customers by enthusiastically promoting securitized mortgages as good investments even as it made hugely profitable side bets that those investments would fail. Instead, he suggested that it was just, you know, kind of an act of God, likening the financial crisis to a "hurricane."

His colleague from JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, agreed that these things just happen every five to seven years or so. "Why is everyone so surprised?" he asked.

At no time did he or Mr. Blankfein or any of the other witnesses suggest that they had a responsibility to ensure that the products their institutions were peddling were worthwhile investments.

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