There has been much hand-wringing, not to mention finger-pointing, regarding who knew what, and when, about the financial calamities that have recently come to pass. However, Brooksley Born and Sheila Bair won’t be counted among the willfully or accidentally ignorant: They’ve been named this year’s winners of the JFK Profile in Courage Award for sounding the alarm far ahead of time.

Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and Born, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission until 1999, were honored for “political courage,” the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced yesterday [Wednesday] in a statement.

The policy makers “recognized that the financial security of all Americans was being put at risk by the greed, negligence and opposition of powerful and well-connected interests,” Caroline Kennedy, the foundation’s president and daughter of the late president, said in the statement.

Bair, 54, who took over the FDIC in 2006, was among the first regulators to prod the mortgage industry to modify loans at risk of foreclosure to help borrowers keep their homes as losses mounted after the collapse of subprime market. Born, 68, lost a fight to bring over-the-counter derivatives under the regulatory control of the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission], after warning in 1998 that the contracts “pose grave dangers to our economy.”

“The catastrophic events of recent months have proved them right,” Kennedy said.

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Additional links:

Read a tribute to Brooksley Born by The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Heuvel here.

Born was vindicated, according to this Bloomberg story from last November, when her warnings finally started sinking in — a decade later — among those she most wanted to take action.

Around that same time last fall, Bair was locking horns with then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson over how to help homeowners who faced foreclosure, as this U.S. News & World Report article details.

Click here for Bair’s official FDIC profile.

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