The Hellhound of Wall Street: Ferdinand Pecora and the Investigation of the Great Crash

Michael Perino, St. John’s University

In the winter of 1933, the nadir of the Great Depression, Ferdinand Pecora took control of a bumbling United States Senate investigation of the 1929 stock market crash. Pecora, a Sicilian immigrant and former assistant district attorney from New York City, was one of the country’s few Italian-American lawyers. He put Charles Mitchell, the chairman of National City Bank (today’s Citibank) on the stand, who left utterly disgraced after Pecora’s relentless questioning revealed the bank’s shocking financial abuses. Michael Perino, author of The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora’s Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance (Penguin Press, 2010), shows how Pecora became an unlikely hero to a beleaguered nation by spurring Congress to rein in the free-wheeling banking industry. These unprecedented steps led directly to the New Deal’s landmark economic reforms.