Elizabeth Warren – Americans’ Trust “Shattered”

Americans’ trust in the financial system has been “shattered” in the past 18 months, says Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel. She says we’re on our way to restoring that trust, but only as the nation’s elites wake up to a new reality:“What we’re having to do is change an entire culture.

Let’s be clear:  The folks who’ve been running these multibillion-dollar institutions – they are accustomed only to talking to other people who run multibillion-dollar institutions. And the rest of you can stay far, far away. What has fundamentally changed is they’re now taking taxpayer dollars. And the taxpayers think that gives them a seat at the conversational table and the decision-making table. And it’s taking a while for those CEOs to figure out the game has changed. And I do believe the game has changed.”

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Elizabeth Warren

Warren acknowledges that some Wall Street CEOs keep acting as if the old rules apply.

She is appalled at Wall Street’s continued practice of handing out oversized bonuses, as evinced by the latest revelations about AIG’s 2008 pool or recent increases in bonuses across the industry.

The idea that firms need to pay up to retain top talent “carries zero” weight with the bailout monitor, who also disagrees with the criticism the Obama administration is overreaching in its dealings with Wall Street. The president, she says, is calling shots as a major shareholder, representing the taxpayer.

“We’re going from a world in which folks at the top only talked to each other, and maybe their regulators on occasion,” Warren says. “It was a very quiet and very private conversation involving billions of dollars. Once you take taxpayer money…. it’s a three-way conversation.”

In that light, Warren believes there will be more public “conversations” like the AIG hearing. She believes faith in the system may be restored by a modern version of the Pecora Commission, which investigated the banking industry after the 1929 crash, although she dodged our question as to whether she would want to lead it, as some have proposed.

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