Nominees emerge for U.S. panel on Wall Street meltdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan panel armed with subpoena power to investigate causes of the Wall Street meltdown is on the brink of being launched, as Congress embarks on an ambitious effort to reform policing of the financial sector.

A street sign on Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York April 18, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

A short list of names has emerged for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that includes former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson; former Democratic head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission Brooksley Born; and Alex Pollock, a fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Congress last month created the 10-member commission to study how fraud, regulatory lapses, monetary policy, accounting, lending practices and executive pay contributed to the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the panel is modeled after the Pecora Commission, a Depression-era U.S. Senate panel that investigated the causes of the 1929 Wall Street crash.

“I think the announcement should be coming in the near future,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said about the naming of the appointees.

The source, speaking anonymously because discussions were still ongoing, said other possible appointees include Bill Thomas, former Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Jake Garn, former Republican senator; and Bob Graham, the former Democratic senator and Florida governor.

Born, Pollock and Thomas declined to comment. Thompson, Garn, and Graham did not immediately respond to messages.

The crisis commission must report its findings to Congress in December 2010. Its work will run parallel to Congressional efforts to draft the most dramatic overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the 1930s.

President Barack Obama has said he hopes reform legislation can be finalized by the end of this year. Obama’s proposal, unveiled earlier this month, calls for the Federal Reserve to police systemic risks to the economy and proposes consolidating primary bank supervision into a new regulator.

The plan also calls for creating a new consumer financial product watchdog and for giving the federal government the power to unwind troubled firms whose stability impact the broader financial system.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission will study what led to the failure of several large Wall Street firms, which prompted Congress last year to pass a $700 billion financial bailout that has been unpopular among voters.

The U.S. economy has shed six million jobs since December 2007 in the midst of a recession that has seen the jobless rate hit 9.4 percent.

The crisis commission was given the power to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses’ testimony as well as correspondence and documents.

Reporting by Karey Wutkowski, additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Carol Bishopric