AUTHORS ON THE RECORD
Athugh he was respsbe r sweepg rerm the Uted States bakg system, the ame Ferdad Pecra s ukw tmst Amercas. What made yu decde t te hs stry?
I actually set out to write an entirely dierent 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 lie story—he immigrated to the United Statesrom 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 mostsuccessul congressional investigations ever conducted. It really is aclassic American success story. I elt compelled to tell the world aboutthis unsung legal hero.
i yur ackwedgemets, yu thak Rchard McCuey ad Wam H. Davs, nata Archves sta wh heped yu wth yur requests r recrds rm the Seate Bakg ad Currecy Cmmttee heargs. Were yu amar wth these recrdsbere yu started research r ths bk? or was ths yur frst experece at the nata Archves?
Tis was my rst experience at the Archives, and Richard and Bill were enormously helpul. Although I spent many days there, I stilleel that I only scratched the surace 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.
Ferdad Pecra was a exceet awyer, but t a Wa Street expert. Yu are a pressr aw at St. Jh’s Uversty whsearea expertse s securtes reguat ad securtes raud.Hw d yu thk Pecra ared terms uderstadg thecmpcated ssues securtes?
Pecora didn’t know much about Wall Street, which made hisperormance 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 aeld 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 inallible. His ignorance about thener 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 theirlie savings.Reorm 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 ocers 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 Proessor o Law at St. John’s University School o Law in New York. He is also a ormer Wall Street litigator. He has testied in both the United States Senateand the House o Representatives and has written extensively on regulation, securities raud, and classaction litigation. His website is