536: The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra
Sep 26, 2014
An unprecedented look inside one of the most powerful, secretive institutions in the country. The NY Federal Reserve is supposed to monitor big banks. But when Carmen Segarra was hired, what she witnessed inside the Fed was so alarming that she got a tiny recorder and started secretly taping. ProPublica's print version.
Note: we released this episode early online, because we wanted it to be available when people heard the excerpt on Morning Edition.
- Ira introduces Carmen Segarra, a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve in New York who, in 2012, started secretly recording as she and her colleagues went about regulating one of the most powerful financial institutions in the country. This was during a time when the New York Fed was trying to become a stronger regulator, so that it wouldn't fail to miss another financial crisis like it did with the meltdown in 2008. As part of that effort to reform, the Fed had commissioned a highly confidential report, written by Columbia professor David Beim, that identified why the regulator failed in the years leading up to the crisis. Beim laid out specific recommendations for how the Fed could fix its problems. Carmen's recordings allow us to see if the Fed successfully heeded those recommendations more than two years later. What we hear is not reassuring.
- ProPublica's Jake Bernstein tells the story of Carmen's first months at the New York Fed, and how she came to start recording. And we hear the story of how the Fed examiners respond to an unusual, questionable deal that Goldman Sachs did — a deal that the top Fed guy stationed inside Goldman calls "legal but shady."
- We hear what the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs say about all this. We hear a New York Fed supervisor tell Carmen Segarra how an examiner should talk and act to be successful at the Fed. And we hear what happens to Carmen when she does exactly what David Beim's confidential report told the Fed it needed to encourage its examiners to do in order to spot the next financial crisis. In the course of reporting our story with ProPublica, we sent lots of questions to the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs. We wanted to share those with you, along with the institutions' responses. Our questions to the New York Fed are here. The New York Fed responded with a statement and later this email. Our questions to Goldman Sachs are here. Goldman Sachs' response is here. And one last document that plays an important role in our story: the confidential report Columbia professor David Beim wrote for the New York Fed in 2009, as it was trying to figure out why it failed to anticipate the financial crisis and what it should do to make sure it wouldn't fail to catch the next one. Here is a transcript of the full episode.