April 9, 2012 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the most infamous savings and loan fraud, Charles Keating’s, successful use of five U.S. Senators to escape sanction for a massive violation of the law. The Senators were Alan Cranston (D. CA), Dennis DeConcini (D. AZ), John Glenn (D OH), John McCain (R. AZ), and Donald Riegle (D. MI). They became infamous as the “Keating Five.” I was one of four regulators who attended the April 9, 1987 meeting. I took the notes of the meeting, in transcript format, that were so detailed and accurate that the Senators testified that they were sure I had tape recorded the meeting. (The reality is that I owe my note taking abilities to Bill Valentine, my high school debate coach, and experience debating for the University of Michigan.)
Reviewing my (near) transcript of the April 9 offers a large number of important lessons that would have allowed us to avoid future crises. We suffered the crises because we ignored all the lessons about which approaches are criminogenic and which are successful. The transcript shows four things that work. First, we were apolitical as regulators. I worked closely in the same regional office with my three regulatory colleagues for years, but I do not know their political affiliation (if any). We went after the S&L frauds and their political cronies regardless of party. Second, we were vigorous and fearless enough as regulators that the frauds (e.g., Keating) feared us. Keating knew that despite his fearsome political power and reputation for trying to ruin his opponents we (the regional S&L regulators based in San Francisco) would never back off.