Where’s today’s hellhound of Wall Street?

By Felix Salmon
October 14, 2010
My review of Michael Perino's new book about Ferdinand Pecora, The Hellhound of Wall Street, is up now chez B&N.

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My review of Michael Perino’s new book about Ferdinand Pecora, The Hellhound of Wall Street, is up now chez B&N. I liked the book a lot, and learned a lot from it, and ultimately came away saddened that history can’t and won’t repeat itself this time round. In 1933, Pecora was the hero of the financial crisis: the man who brought the banksters to book. Today, there’s no such hero. And while Dodd-Frank and Basel III are all well and good, they’re not remotely as far-reaching and revolutionary as the Securities Act, and the Exchange Act, and the creation of entities like the SEC and the FDIC.

Of course, it’s thanks largely to Pecora that we don’t need anything so far-reaching and revolutionary. It’s great that Perino has rescued Pecora from the dusty reaches of history, and is showing what an aggressive prosecutorial lawyer can do, given subpoena power and the moral high ground. I’d love to see one of those in the Senate today, or even in an AG’s office somewhere, or at the SEC. But ever since Eliot Spitzer became governor of New York, that job has seemed to be vacant. It looks very much as though there will be precious few prosecutions coming out of this crisis. Unless, of course, I’m right about the degree to which the mortgage scandal could explode.

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