An Old Word Returns: Bankster

Monday, February 02, 2009
Ferdinand Pecora

Every now and then a word that has gone out of fashion earns the right to be revived. A perfect example is the Depression-era word “bankster,” which combines the words “banker” and “gangster.” “Bankster” found its first public use in the September 5, 1932, issue of Time Magazine, in reference to John Bain, the founder of a chain of small banks, who was convicted of defrauding depositors. The hero of the bankster period was a Republican lawyer from New York named Ferdinand J. Pecora, who led the Senate Banking and Currency Committee’s 1933-1934 investigation of abuses by Wall Street, publically interrogating some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the United States. The question for 2009 is whether Chris Dodd (D-CT), the current Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, is prepared to take on the modern-day counterparts of J.P. Morgan Jr. and other investment bankers and, if so, whether he can find a 21st century attorney with the knowledge and tenacity of Ferdinand Pecora.

Banker + Gangster = Bankster (by Harold Evans, BBC Magazine)
Where Is Our Ferdinand Pecora? (by Ron Chernow, New York Times)
Ferdinand Pecora: An American Hero (by Jackie Corr, CounterPunch)


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