Take a minute, if you missed it already, to check out this editorial in the NYTimes by Eliot Spitzer, Frank Partnoy and Bill Black (three people who have investigated a fair amount of financial fraud) where they call for an open source investigation of what went wrong at AIG (NYSE:AIG):
we know where the answers are. They are in the trove of e-mail messages still backed up on A.I.G. servers, as well as in the key internal accounting documents and financial models generated by A.I.G. during the past decade. Before releasing its regulatory clutches, the government should insist that the company immediately make these materials public. By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of “open source” investigation.
Once the documents are available for everyone to inspect, a thousand journalistic flowers can bloom, as reporters, victims and angry citizens have a chance to piece together the story. In past cases of financial fraud — from the complex swaps that Bankers Trust sold to Procter & Gamble in the early 1990s to the I.P.O. kickback schemes of the late 1990s to the fall of Enron — e-mail messages and internal documents became the central exhibits in our collective understanding of what happened, and why.
It’s really possible that we’ll come away with a much better impression of AIG as a result. They may have simply been the victim of incredibly poor timing and getting in a little over their head rather than having acted as major villains of the crisis. It would also shine some light on their post-bailout activities, activities that have also worried many, including myself, in whether they are playing favorites with taxpayer money. And it would involve crowd-sourcing investigations, so we can see if the financial blogosphere is up for the challenge.
The Roosevelt Institute is putting together an online petition here if you are interested in signing or reproducing it on facebook or twitter. Click through if interested!