NEW YORK — Bookstores nationwide on Thursday get to crack open boxes filled with volumes containing the conclusions of the federal panel tasked with investigating the financial crisis.
Inspired by the commission that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks and wrote a bestseller in the process, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission set out to produce the definitive account of the calamity that brought the global economy to its knees.
But after 19 hearings and testimony from 700 witnesses, few on Capitol Hill or Wall Street expect the product to live up to the panel's lofty aim of helping to prevent future crises.
For one thing, instead of writing a single, bipartisan report, the commission split into factions that came up with three conflicting reports.
On top of that, all three narratives deal with events already picked apart by a long list of books as well as congressional hearings.
"This is another set of reports that will likely just collect dust in the bin of history," said Robert Litan, co-director of an effort by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution to conduct their own investigation of the crisis. "It's too bad."
The most expansive of the panel's reports was produced by the six Democrats on the 10-person commission, including its chairman, former California Treasurer Phil Angelides.
Their version is expected to describe the crisis as "avoidable" and to blame a wide array of players on Wall Street and in Washington, including regulatory agencies that bowed to the financial industry's wishes and banks that took on enormous, poorly understood risks.
A 27-page dissenting report by three of the Republican-appointed commissioners offers a strikingly different view, arguing that the cause of the crisis went beyond U.S. regulators and companies.
"It's a story that focuses heavily on economics, focuses on a global credit bubble, a housing bubble contributed to by U.S. policies, but recognizes there were housing bubbles in other countries as well," said Keith Hennessey, one of the GOP appointees and a former top economic aide to President George W. Bush. "What other people in our view get wrong is not when they point out problems in U.S. policy, but when they say problems in U.S. policies are sufficient to explain the crisis."
The fourth Republican-appointed commissioner, Peter Wallison, released his own dissenting opinion, blaming the crisis on the U.S. government's promotion of home ownership via quasi-governmental mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Wallison, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized the panel's work as biased.
"The commission's majority used its extensive statutory investigative authority to seek only the facts that supported its initial assumptions," he wrote.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also has been critical of the panel, asking why it needed an additional $1.8 million last year on top of its allotted $8 million budget. He is considering holding hearings on why the commission failed to reach a consensus.
On Tuesday, Issa and two other House Republicans sent Angelides a second request for documents related to how the panel was run.