FCIC Member Sought to Aid Dodd-Frank Repeal, E-Mails Show

A Republican commissioner on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission urged his colleagues to make sure the panel’s conclusions would “not undermine” his party’s efforts in the U.S. House to change or repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, according to e-mails cited by congressional investigators.

Peter J. Wallison, an FCIC member and former Treasury Department official, sent the e-mails to two of his Republican colleagues on the commission in the days after Republicans won the House in November’s elections, according to a report released today by Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“It’s very important, I think, that what we say in our separate statements not undermine the ability of the new House GOP to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank,” Wallison wrote in a Nov. 3 e-mail to Republican Commissioner Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

The report by Cummings, of Maryland, is drawn from more than “400,000 internal commission e-mails, memos and other documents” obtained by the House committee, according to a press release accompanying the report.

“The documents raise significant new questions about whether Republican commissioners geared their efforts on the commission toward helping House Republicans in their campaign to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, rather than determining the facts that led to the financial crisis,” the report states.

Wallison, in a phone interview about the e-mails, said that he wanted his colleagues to understand it’s always been the desire of the Republicans to repeal Dodd-Frank.

‘Simple as That’

“I was very disappointed that the other Republican commissioners were not going to support the position I was taking because I thought with a split among the Republicans, it would be less helpful in getting the Dodd-Frank Act repealed. It’s as simple as that,” Wallison said.

The 10-member commission, charged by Congress with delving into the origins of the 2008 financial collapse, released split findings in January. While the Democratic majority pinned much of the blame on Wall Street firms and Washington regulators, Republican members issued two dissents that criticized Democrats for failing to uncover the actual causes of the crisis.

Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the Oversight panel, pledged to look into the crisis commission’s work to learn whether its final report was driven by politics or the misuse of taxpayer dollars. A hearing on the FCIC titled “What Went Wrong at the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission” had been scheduled for today. Issa subsequently postponed the hearing.

‘Ethical Questions’

The investigation raises “a host of new ethical questions about Republican commissioners and staff, including evidence that they leaked confidential information to outside parties on multiple occasions,” the Cummings report said.

The report cites regular communications between an assistant to the commission’s Republican vice chairman, Bill Thomas, and Alex Brill, an economic policy adviser at Pittsburgh-based Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney PC and the chief executive officer of Matrix Global Advisors, a political consulting firm.

The assistant, who was not named in the report, sent Brill “a draft outline of a preliminary investigative report prepared by committee staff” on San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co.’s acquisition of Wachovia Corp., according to the report. Brill also sought, and received, information on how the commission would treat New York-based Citigroup Inc. at a public hearing, the e-mails show.

Staff Memo

Brill, who worked for Thomas when he was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Thomas also serves as a senior adviser at Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney.

The Democrats also cited a confidential staff memo analyzing housing data to commissioners that Wallison sent to Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae and a fellow, along with Wallison, at the American Enterprise Institute.

Wallison, who told commissioners he had forwarded the memo, said today he thought Pinto should see it because it dealt directly with information Pinto had provided the commission.

“I wear it as a badge of honor,” Wallison said of the report issued by the Democrats. “Apparently they are so concerned about what I’ve been saying that they had to attack me.”

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