Killing the FCIC With Kindness

| Mon Jun. 7, 2010 5:13 PM EDT

Via Felix Salmon, CNBC reports that Phil Angelides is pretty peeved at Goldman Sachs:

Phil Angelides, the chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, said that while the overwhelming number of financial firms from which the FCIC has sought documents or information have complied, Goldman has not. Instead, Goldman has been “dumping” an overwhelming volume of documents on the FCIC, which has a staff of just over 50 people.

"We did not ask them to pull up a dump truck to our offices to dump a bunch of rubbish," Angelides said during a conference call following the announcement that the FCIC had sent Goldman a subpoena Friday.

....Thomas said Goldman was deliberately delaying because it knows the FCIC must wrap up its investigation and deliver a report on the crisis at the end of the year. Angelides agreed, describing Goldman as making a “very deliberate effort to run out the clock.”

This is such a classic maneuver. Thanks to technology, however, it's not as common in big class action lawsuits as it used to be. These days, if you dump a million pages of documents on the plaintiff in a big suit, they just hire a bureau with a bank of high-volume scanners to scan every page, OCR it, and then do full text indexing on the whole mess. Sometime during the mid-90s I went to a lecture given by one of the lead lawyers in the Exxon Valdez case where he described how they had done this, and it was pretty eye opening. Today, though, it's routine.

But it's only routine if you have (a) the budget to do it and (b) the time to do it. The FCIC has neither, so in a case like this it remains a pretty effective tactic. But the Washington DC area has loads of imaging bureaus. Maybe one of them should offer up their time pro bono to help out with this. It's only a million pages, after all.