CSI: Wall Street

Though lacking a theme song by the Who, federal investigators are performing autopsies on failed banks and lenders across the U.S. These "coroners of the financial crisis"—so dubbed by The New York Times—are finding that regulators often acted too late in their attempts to prevent risky business deals, despite knowing about the practices early on. These financial coroner's reports, called material loss reviews, look at the factors that led to the lenders' demises, and as they are made public, their findings could influence policy as government officials discuss tightening regulations on loans by limiting, for example, the percentage of balance sheets than can consist of real-estate loans. Either way, the reviews cast a damning picture of regulators' ability to rein in risk-happy lenders. "We all could have done a better job," said Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the FDIC.