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May 23, 2015

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Federal panel probing financial crisis visiting Las Vegas

Las Vegas will take center stage today when a federal commission hears testimony about the impact of the nation’s financial crisis on the Southern Nevada economy and real estate market.

Las Vegas is one of four locales around the country that will be visited by the 10-member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Congress created it in 2009 to examine the cause of the financial meltdown in 2008 that prompted a federal bailout of banks and Wall Street firms.

“Nevada has been a state that has been particularly hard hit by the financial crisis, and we wanted to give voice to the people on what it has reaped on them,” said Las Vegas attorney Byron Georgiou, one of two Nevadans on the bi-partisan commission. The other is Heather Murren, the co-founder of the Nevada Cancer Institute.

In addition to Las Vegas, the commission visited Bakersfield, Calif., on Tuesday and has hearings later this month in Miami and Sacramento.

In the past year, the commission has held hearings in Washington, D.C., and New York City to examine the causes of the global crisis.

It has dealt with such issues as subprime lending practices, financial derivatives, credit rating agencies and the concept of banks being too big to fail.

“The purpose of this hearing is to focus on the local Nevada impacts on the financial crisis from the business community and bankers to those in gaming and tourism,” Georgiou said.

That fallout has resulted in the decline of the Las Vegas housing and commercial real estate markets that has triggered foreclosures, lowered prices and brought construction to a near halt. It has made it difficult for businesses to obtain loans and resulted in fewer people visiting Nevada and spending less money.

“We are a state that has been historically quite dependant on tourism and, obviously, the economic crisis has impacted Americans all over, and it has significantly impacted the people we expect to come here and stay in hotels and eat in restaurants,” Georgiou said.

The speakers include Applied Analysis Principal Jeremy Aguero, who will give an economic analysis on the impact in Nevada.

Other speakers include Steve Hill, past chairman of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce; William Martin, chief executive officer of Service 1st Bank of Nevada; Wally Murray, chief executive officer of Greater Nevada Credit Union; Philip Satre, chairman of International Gaming Technology and NV Energy.

Other speakers will talk about the impact on local governments and community services.

The report will be completed in December, and Georgiou said the hope is Congress and President Obama will take recommendations from it.

Even though Congress has already approved financial reform legislation, Georgiou said more improvements and changes can be made to the system to prevent a reoccurrence of the financial crisis.

The hearing starts at 9 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. at the UNLV Student Union Building grand ballroom, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway. The hearing will be webcast live at fcic.gov. Any member of the public who wants to attend needs to register at the Web site and receive confirmation about availability of seating.

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