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Hellhound of Wall Street - Prologue Fall 2011

Hellhound of Wall Street - Prologue Fall 2011

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Published by Prologue Magazine
Authors on the Record: An interview with the author of Hellhound of Wall Street, a book about Ferdinand Pecora, who investigated the causes of the 1929 crash in his role as chief counsel for the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.
Authors on the Record: An interview with the author of Hellhound of Wall Street, a book about Ferdinand Pecora, who investigated the causes of the 1929 crash in his role as chief counsel for the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Prologue Magazine on Oct 26, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/26/2011

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AUTHORS ON THE RECORD
 Athugh he was respsbe r sweepg rerm  the Uted States bakg system, the ame Ferdad Pecra s ukw tmst Amercas. What made yu decde t te hs stry?
I actually set out to write an entirely dierent book. Te subjectis unimportant, but it tangentially involved the Pecora hearings. Iknew that Pecora had given his oral history in the early 1960s aspart o the Columbia University oral history project, and although Ididn’t think it was going to be terribly relevant to my book, I decidedI should read it. By page 10, I was completely hooked. Pecora hadsuch an incredible lie story—he immigrated to the United Statesrom Sicily in the late 1800s when he was ve years old. He grew up in a basement tenement on the west side o Manhattan andquit school when he was just 15 when his ather was injured in anindustrial accident. Over the next our decades, Pecora supportedhis amily, went to night law school, became a prominent New York prosecutor, and eventually took on Wall Street in one o the mostsuccessul congressional investigations ever conducted. It really is aclassic American success story. I elt compelled to tell the world aboutthis unsung legal hero.
i yur ackwedgemets, yu thak Rchard McCuey ad  Wam H. Davs, nata Archves sta wh heped yu wth yur requests r recrds rm the Seate Bakg ad Currecy Cmmttee heargs. Were yu amar wth these recrdsbere yu started research r ths bk? or was ths yur frst experece at the nata Archves?
Tis was my rst experience at the Archives, and Richard and Bill were enormously helpul. Although I spent many days there, I stilleel that I only scratched the surace o what is available in theserecords. Tere are, I believe, over 170 boxes o documents at theNational Archives rom the investigation. It is a treasure trove oranyone interested in the inner workings o the nancial industry during the 1920s and 1930s.
Ferdad Pecra was a exceet awyer, but t a Wa Street expert. Yu are a pressr  aw at St. Jh’s Uversty whsearea  expertse s  securtes reguat ad securtes raud.Hw d yu thk Pecra ared  terms  uderstadg thecmpcated ssues  securtes?
Pecora didn’t know much about Wall Street, which made hisperormance in the hearings all the more remarkable. He was a quick study, with a phenomenal memory. One o his aides said that the sta “looked with astonishment at this man who, through the intricatemazes o banking syndicates, market deals, chicanery o all sorts, in aeld new to him, never orgot a name, never made an error in a gure,and never lost his temper.O course, Pecora was ar rom inallible. His ignorance about thener details o Wall Street practice occasionally led him astray. A ew times, he was fat-out wrong.But given the quick pace o the investigation, it’s actually surprising how accurate he was. In the end, I don’t think his ew missteps mattered very much. Pecora tried not to get lost in thearcane details. He had spent a dozen years as a prosecutor in New  York, and he knew that the way to win over a jury was not to dwell
the hellhound ofwall street
by hilary parkinson
   M   i  c   h  a  e   l   P  e  r   i  n  o
In 1933, the United States was gripped by the Great Depression. Te country’s nancial system teeteredon the verge o collapse. Tirty-eight states had closed their banks, and one in our amilies had lost theirlie savings.Reorm was needed, and it would begin with Ferdinand Pecora, who investigated the causes o the 1929crash in his role as chie counsel or the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.For 10 days, the ocers o National City Bank were grilled by Pecora. And 10 days later, Charles E.Mitchell—chairman o that bank and ormer adviser to three Presidents—resigned in disgrace. Ultimately,the results o the investigation would lead to stronger ederal oversight on the activities o banks and thestock market.Michael Perino is the Dean George W. Matheson Proessor o Law at St. John’s University School o Law in New York. He is also a ormer Wall Street litigator. He has testied in both the United States Senateand the House o Representatives and has written extensively on regulation, securities raud, and classaction litigation. His website is
www.michaelperino.com.
62
Prologue
Fall 2011

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