Members of Congress may want political points and "Daily Show"-worthy clips of grilling banking regulators, but there's no need to be entirely cynical.
"It really is a legitimate fact-finding expedition," says Angel. "Our legislators come from a variety of different backgrounds. They're not necessarily financial experts." In other words, they can be just as confused by media accounts of trading missteps as the average American. The difference is that lawmakers are in a position to directly ask the people involved what went wrong.
Fighting the System
It's no secret that the people responsible for the banking crisis have faced few repercussions. Even Attorney General Eric Holder recently explained that the size of some banks makes prosecution difficult without hurting the national economy.
For those legislators who still hope to effect some sort of change to the banking or regulation system, says Angel, "this is a good way to get publicity and to get more support for their cause, [by] raising public awareness of the cause as well as raising awareness among their fellow legislators."
...But Having Little to Show for It
Legislators may have their problems with the bank regulation system, but trying to fix those problems is a Sisyphean task. After all, after plenty of scrapping, Congress finally passed Dodd-Frank, which did little to simplify a remarkably complex and fragmented regulatory system. Barth says that the U.S. has a history of passing post-crisis financial regulation that doesn't get the job done. He also adds that lawmakers tend to put too much emphasis on going after bankers, when they ought to be focusing more on the regulators tasked with keeping the system secure. Without that pressure, he says, the regulators will stay on the sidelines.
"The regulatory authorities know what happened," he says. "They know what they did or did not do to contribute to the crisis. They're going to remain relatively silent and watch members of Congress go after big banks."