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Wednesday, Jul 15 2009 05:59 PM

Bill Thomas to help investigate financial crisis

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    In this 2006 file photo, then-Congressman Bill Thomas reflects on his political career from his Capitol office in Washington, D.C.

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BY CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian staff writer cbedell@bakersfield.com

Former Bakersfield Congressman Bill Thomas will help lead a commission that investigates what went wrong with the nation’s economy so lawmakers can “move forward with common-sense reforms,” it was announced Wednesday.

Thomas, R-Bakersfield, was appointed vice chairman of the 10-member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, established by Congress to examine the causes of the severe recession and collapse of major financial institutions.

The chair will be another Californian, former State Treasurer Phil Angelides.

Thomas was one of four people appointed by House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The other six were selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Thomas was considered one of the smartest and most powerful members of Congress during his tenure, rising to chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. He represented Bakersfield in Congress for 28 years before choosing not to run for re-election in 2006.

Thomas wouldn’t get into the specifics of what he’ll be doing since the commission hasn’t met yet. He did talk to Angelides about the work, though, Wednesday, he said.

It’s important to examine what the public and private sectors got right and got wrong and make changes as needed.

“We need to make sure success has behavioral consequences and failure has behavioral consequences,” said Thomas, who will continue dividing his time between Bakersfield and Washington, D.C.

The commission will look at, and hold hearings on, more than 20 aspects of the financial system including fraud and abuse; state and federal regulatory enforcement; tax treatment of financial products; credit rating agencies; lending practices; and corporate governance and executive compensation, according to a Pelosi and Reid news release.

It is to issue a final report by Dec. 15, 2010.

“With Bill Thomas serving as vice chairman alongside these other distinguished members, I am confident this commission will vigorously seek out the facts so Congress can move forward with common-sense reforms that restore confidence in our financial system,” Boehner said in a news release.

The other commission members are:

• Boehner appointee Peter Wallison, co-director for financial policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

• McConnell appointees former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin and former National Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey.

• Pelosi appointees Brooksley Born, former chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and John W. Thompson, chairman of the board of directors of Symantec Corp.

• Reid appointees Bob Graham, former senator from and governor of Florida; Heather Murren, a retired managing director for global securities research and economics at Merrill Lynch; and Byron Georgiou, a Las Vegas-based businessman and attorney who serves on the advisory board of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance.

“I can’t think of a better person to serve in this important role of rooting out the causes of ourfinancial crisis than Bill Thomas,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. “This appointment is a testament to his leadership, no-nonsense approach, experience and intellect to critically examine problems.”

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