Brooksley Born warned that unchecked trading in the credit market could lead to disaster, but power brokers in Washington ignored her. Now we're all paying the price.
BY RICK SCHMITT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIKA LARSEN
Shortly after she was named to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1996, Brooksley E. Born was invited to lunch by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.
The influential Greenspan was an ardent proponent of unfettered markets. Born was a powerful Washington lawyer with a track record for activist causes. Over lunch, in his private dining room at the stately headquarters of the Fed in Washington, Greenspan probed their differences.
“Well, Brooksley, I guess you and I will never agree about fraud,” Born, in a recent interview, remembers Greenspan saying.
“What is there not to agree on?” Born says she replied.
“Well, you probably will always believe there should be laws against fraud, and I don’t think there is any need for a law against fraud,” she recalls. Greenspan, Born says, believed the market would take care of itself.
For the incoming regulator, the meeting was a wake-up call. “That underscored to me how absolutist Alan was in his opposition to any regulation,” she said in the interview.