The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission delays its reporting date

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission delays its reporting date

Here’s a press release from the commission:

To ensure that the Commission’s ongoing investigation and the documentation thereof is appropriately completed, the Commission has resolved, by majority vote, to deliver its report in January 2011, rather than on December 15, 2010. The additional time will allow the Commission to produce and disseminate a report which best serves the public interest and more fully informs the President, the Congress and the American people about the facts and causes of the crisis. The Commission will conclude its operations by February 13, 2011, as prescribed.

Here’s a statement from four commissioners, including me:

Today, Republican Commissioners on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (“FCIC”) voted against a motion to change the date of delivery of the Commission’s report to the President and Congress to January 2011. The Commission is statutorily required to deliver the report on December 15, 2010 as set forth by the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009.

The Commission has had over a year to complete the report and we believe the delivery of the report to the President and Congress is being delayed to accommodate the publication of a book-length document to coincide with the presentation of the FCIC’s findings and conclusions.

We believe a report containing the findings and conclusions of the FCIC on the causes of the financial crisis can be delivered by the statutory delivery date and Republican Commissioners are prepared to work to meet the deadline set forth in statute.

I don’t think this is an earth-shaking development but I’d like to explain my vote nonetheless. I voted no today for a simple reason: I think an aye vote would violate the law, or at a minimum would be inconsistent with the law.

Section 5(h) of Public Law 111-21 begins:

(1) REPORT. On December 15, 2010, the Commission shall submit to the President and to the Congress a report containing the findings and conclusions of the Commission on the causes of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States.

To put it simply, the Commission lacks the legal authority to change its own reporting date. Only the Congress can do that.

Chairman Angelides’ letters to the President and the Congressional leaders read, in part:

To ensure that the Commission’s ongoing investigation and the documentation thereof is appropriately completed, the Commission has resolved, by majority vote, to deliver its report in January 2011, rather than on December 15, 2010.

The Commission does not have the authority to make that decision, because it directly contradicts section 5(h)(1) of Public Law 111-21.

A reasonable argument can be made that the Commission might produce a better report if allowed more time. I wouldn’t make that argument, but it’s reasonable for someone else to do so.

The FCIC is a creation of a law, and we must be governed by that law whether we commissioners like it or not. If it’s that important to take more time, we should have asked Congress to change the statute. It’s true that Congress would almost certainly have said no, and so it may not have been worth even asking. Still, I think that should not lead us to conclude that we, as commissioners, can or should therefore vote to do something that directly contradicts the law that granted us our authority.

To me, the arguments that others have done so in similar circumstances, or that there is no penalty or legal consequence if we miss the date, are irrelevant.

I voted no because I thought doing otherwise would violate the law. I won’t do that, however insignificant or unobjectionable the consequence or reasonable the justification. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

(photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski)

7 responses

  1. Thank you for your 'no' vote. I am glad someone has the integrity to notice what the law calls for and abides by that law.

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  4. Thanks, I think, for the "no" vote. Facially, it seems like a great rule of thumb to consistently follow the law as it's already written. On the other hand, I don't have any information about actually why they want to delay the report, and given the timing of the delay, maximum of 6 weeks surrounding Christmas, so… more like 4 weeks, maybe, I don't see it as a big delay.

    I'm not sure what one could accomplish in that time, but I'm open to hearing more about it, and disappointed that there's so much noise and so little signal on the FCIC website that it's well-nigh impossible to find actual news about what's actually happening, summarized in any meaningful way that a benighted lay-person might understand.

    tl;dr: I'd actually thank you if I could understand why Angelides wants to delay the report, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere to learn about that.

  5. Bravo Keith!
    Accountability, responsibility, integrity….qualities the aye voters need to aquire.

  6. Keith,

    Glad to see some people in Washington, DC take their legal responsiblities seriously. I agree that in isolation it's not an "earth shaking development" as you point out. The problem, of course, is that its part of a DC culture that doesn't really take any of its duties seriously, especially that whole thing about protecting the Constitution.

  7. This has all the makings of topcover for economically bad bills to be passed in the lame-duck session, but allows the 2012 vulnerables plausible deniability. Appreciate the 'no' vote, Kieth…

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