The Pecora Hearings 75 Years Ago Offer Lessons The investigation of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency 75 years ago shaped the nation's financial regulatory system. They became known as the Pecora Hearings, after the counsel Ferdinand Pecora, whose dogged questioning of Wall Street following the crash of 1929 disgraced the big bankers of the day.

The Pecora Hearings 75 Years Ago Offer Lessons

The Pecora Hearings 75 Years Ago Offer Lessons

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The investigation of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency 75 years ago shaped the nation's financial regulatory system. They became known as the Pecora Hearings, after the counsel Ferdinand Pecora, whose dogged questioning of Wall Street following the crash of 1929 disgraced the big bankers of the day.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

More than 75 years ago, Wall Street titans came to Washington to answer for their actions, too.

BLOCK: 1929, the financial house of cards collapses, and the overinflated stock market plunges into a Great Depression. A financial panic grips the world.

BLOCK: After the Crash of 1929, a Senate commission began investigating Wall Street. That probe was led by a tenacious counsel named Ferdinand Pecora. We asked scholar Michael Perino, who is writing a biography about Pecora, to tell us about the man.

MICHAEL PERINO: He was an Italian immigrant, quit school at an early age because his father was injured in an industrial accident. He eventually becomes a lawyer. He is for many years an assistant district attorney in New York and at the time was in private practice when he got this call out of the blue to serve as counsel.

BLOCK: In 1933, unemployment was at 25 percent, and the stock market was 90 percent off its crazy high. It was the perfect time to tap into the outrage of America. And that's exactly what Pecora did. He turned the proceedings into riveting political theater and shed light on the shady banking practices of the day.

PERINO: Really, the genius to his success, I think, was his ability to take complex corporate transactions, which people had enormous trouble understanding, and turning them into simple morality plays.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Explaining complex corporate transactions is also a challenge for the commission that begins work next week. Michael Perino's forthcoming biography about Ferdinand Pecora is titled "The Hellhound of Wall Street."

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