As expected, the chairman came out swinging Monday morning, accusing former CEO Richard Fuld of “taking no responsibility” for Lehman’s collapse. Waxman said Lehman was "a company in which there was no accountability for failure."
Fuld is expected to testify later in the day, in what will be his first public appearance since the bank’s collapse.
Waxman alleged that Lehman was still doling out bonuses to executives, even as it was pleading with the government for a bailout.
“Even as Mr. Fuld was pleading with [Treasury Secretary] Henry Paulson for a federal rescue, Lehman continued to squander millions on executive compensation,” Waxman said in his opening statement.
Waxman said that over the next three weeks, his committee would hold five separate hearings on the crisis after Congress passed a $700 billion bailout on Friday.
Waxman called the bailout "a life support measure" and said that the hearings will lay the groundwork for tough new reforms for Wall Street.
Rep. Tom Davis, the top Republican on the panel, urged Waxman not to engage in “partisan finger-pointing” on the issue, arguing that unsubstantiated accusations can “can inflame fears and trigger market stampedes.”
In a heated exchange, Waxman denied several requests from committee members to make opening statements on the topic.