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COP Farewell

posted by Adam Levitin

The Congressional Oversight Panel released its final report this week, and as of April 1, the Panel will exist no more.  The Panel had a remarkable record of achievement and performed a huge service to the country. Between December 2008 and March 2011, the Panel held numerous hearings, countless interviews and meetings, and published 30 reports on the financial crisis and the government's response. These were lengthy (100+ page), detailed, and erudite reports, meticulously footnoted. No one has questioned the factual strength of the Oversight Panel's reports and simply forming that record was a tremendous public service.  The Oversight Panel's reports form the true official record of the crisis and response.  

The Oversight Panel did not merely set forth a litany of facts, however. It also provided an interpretation of the crisis and the government response. And it was unusually effective at communicating its findings to a public struggling to understand the crisis. Typically government oversight panels' reports are consigned to the dustbin from the get go. At best they engender a Congressional subcommittee hearing attended by a couple of Congressmen. But the Oversight Panel's reports were consistently newsworthy and played a critical role in informing the public about what the government was (and was not) doing to respond to the financial crisis. The Panel ultimately shaped the debate and the agenda with its critical oversight. It forced much better reporting and transparency from Treasury, and probably saved taxpayers billions of dollars. The Panel more than paid for itself, and shows that an ounce of oversight is priceless. The end of the Panel plus the transition in the SIGTARP office makes me very nervous about the lack of oversight for the remaining TARP programs (such as HAMP). Treasury hates oversight, and that should tell us just how much it's needed.  

The Panel's work product was very much a team effort; the Panel had an amazing bipartisan professional staff (I had the privilege of playing a small role as outside counsel for the Panel and cannot overemphasize how impressed I was with the Panel's full-time staff). These staffers put out a report every month and then some, an incredible and exhausting production effort that they carried out without compromise on quality.

The work product also reflected a dedicated group of Panelists who were truly concerned about the crisis. The Panelists did not always agree; even among the Democratic appointees, there was plenty of debate, but the Panel often managed to produce bipartisan, consensus reports, and when there were dissents, they were usually to add additional points, rather than disagree with the substance of the majority report.

I would also be remiss if I did not single out the critical role that Elizabeth Warren played in establishing the character of the Panel. Her leadership as Chair was exemplary and ensured that the Panel was a leading voice in policy discussions about response to the crisis. If anyone wants to get a sense of how she might fare at leading the CFPB, it's hard to find a better indicator than her leadership of the Panel. 

So the Congressional Oversight Panel has run its course, but its success should serve as an example for future government oversight panels. The lesson I take from the Panel is that the leadership really matters, both from the Panelists and from the professional staff. With the right picks, an oversight panel can be hugely valuable and constructive. With the wrong ones it can be irrelevant or have its own politics turn into the main story and overshadow its findings. But looking back on the past two and a half years of the financial crisis, the Congressional Oversight Panel is one of the few unmitigated success stories of which I can think. I'm extremely proud to have been associated with it. 



Your participation is the only hope the majority of at risk home owners have of ever having their interest considered. With or without oversight American homeowners will continue to lose their homes unless they understand that the fight must happen one home at a time.

Thanks for your continued support to the average American facing a bureaucracy without oversight.

Grateful American Homeowner!



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