Perhaps you were angry that Obama's Justice Department never went after Wall Street elites. I sure was. Last year David Sirota did a powerful piece for International Business Times about how prosecution for white collar crimes was at a 20-year low– although not because there was less of that kind of crime. While Bernie was getting standing ovations for demanding more Wall Street prosecutions– with Hillary and even Trump pretending to go along with the sentiment– prosecutions were down 12% for 2015 from 2014 and down 29% in five years. Underscoring the assertion that it wasn't that crime was going down but that enforcement policies had shifted “a recent study by researchers at George Mason University tracking the increased use of special Justice Department agreements that allow corporations– and often their executives– to avoid being prosecuted. Before 2003, researchers found, the Justice Department offered 'almost no' such deals. The researchers report that from 2007 to 2011, 44 percent of cases were resolved through the deals– known as deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements.”
In 2012, President Obama pledged to “hold Wall Street accountable” for financial misdeeds related to the financial crisis. But as financial industry donations flooded into Obama’s reelection campaign, his Justice Department officials promoted policies that critics say embodied a “too big to jail” doctrine for financial crime.
In a 2012 speech, for example, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Lanny Breuer, said “collateral consequences of an indictment” such as layoffs, losses for corporate shareholders and the health of an industry factor into Obama administration decisions about whether to prosecute white-collar crime.
“In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders,” said Breuer, who served as a white-collar defense attorney before and after being appointed by Obama to the Justice Department position.
Similarly, in 2013, Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, told congressional lawmakers that when it comes to banks, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them.” He said there is an “inhibiting impact” on the Obama Justice Department’s willingness to prosecute a bank when bringing a criminal charge “[would] have a negative impact on the national economy.”
Holder’s 2013 comments were foreshadowed by a 1999 memo he wrote as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton Administration. In it, Holder recommended that prosecutors consider “[c]ollateral consequences, including disproportionate harm to shareholders and employees not proven personally culpable” before attempting to convict corporations for wrongdoing. Holder’s recommendations to career prosecutors were rewritten in 2003 by the Bush Justice Department, which viewed Holder’s memo as too friendly towards corporate cultures of misconduct.
…Prior to serving in the Obama Justice Department, both Breuer and Holder worked at white-collar defense firm Covington & Burling. Both of them went back to work for the firm again immediately after leaving their government posts. Holder has defended the administration’s record of not prosecuting any individual financial executive involved in the financial crisis, saying the Obama administration’s prosecution decisions have changed the culture of banking.
That said, raise you hand if you think prosecutions of banksters will go up under Attorney General Sessions. Expect the further effective decriminalization of felonious and illegitimate financial behavior on a bank level once Sessions is installed. I bet an awful lot of Trump voters, not to mention Bernie voters, have other expectations. In June Michael Brenner reported that “despite the revelations of massive misconduct by banks and other financial services businesses, criminal investigations are rare, indictments exceptional and guilty judgments extraordinary. Most potentially culpable actions are overlooked by authorities, slighted, reduced from criminal to civil status when pursued, individuals evade penalties much less punishment, and the appeals courts take extreme liberties in exonerating culprits when and if the odd conviction reaches them.”
Our elected officials, our regulators, our politicos and the media have come to accept this as the natural order of things. Business Sections of newspapers, like the New York Times, read like the gazette for the world of organized crime in its heyday when the five Mafia families were on top of their game. (substitute Goldman Sachs, Chase Morgan, Bank of America, CITI, Wells Fargo). As for the Wall Street Journal and the legion of business magazines, they blend features of VARIETY and Osservatore Romano.
The reasons for this phenomenon are multiple: the rule of money in our politics; the neutering of regulatory bodies by the appointment of business friendly officers in symbiotic relationships with former or prospective employers; a wider culture in which the cult of wealth pervades all; and the timidity of a political class that defers to the power centers who enjoy rank, status and respect.
The administration Trump and Pence are putting together is not one that will be draining the swamp but building glittering– if stinking– palaces in it. The good news this week on this front came not from the Justice Department but from London, where 3 crooked Barclays traders who were actually sent to prison for Libor manipulation were just denied appeals by a U.K. judge, making it very unlikely that their guilty verdicts will be overturned. The 3 scummy little banksters– Jonathan Mathew, Alex Pabon and Jay Merchant– were found guilty of rigging the London interbank offered rate between 2005 and 2007. Their sentences ranged from 2 years, 9 months to six and a half years.
Trump's two top contenders for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin and Jeb Hensarling, are both outspoken advocates not of throwing criminal banksters in jail but of throwing out financial services regulations that protect the public from predators. Yesterday's Christian Science Monitor speculated that if nominated, “Mnuchin could face questions over his ownership of a failed sub-prime mortgage lender that he bought in 2009. The bank, now called OneWest, was taken over in 2008 and sold for $1.55 billion by the government, which covered much of its outstanding losses. Mnuchin and co-investors sold the bank for twice its original price in 2015. CNN reports that before it was sold again, federal regulators charged OneWest with falsifying documents during property foreclosures.”
Mnuchin is also a former executive at Goldman Sachs. That puts him in good company: Robert Rubin, a Treasury secretary under President Clinton, and Henry Paulson, who served under George W. Bush, both came from Goldman. Mr. Paulson, a Republican who has been critical of Trump’s economic views and experience, was the firm’s chairman.
Goldman was a populist punching bag for Trump, both in the primaries– Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, works there– and in defeating Hillary Clinton, who gave paid speeches to the bank after serving as secretary of State.
“I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton,” Trump said of Cruz in a February debate.
Whoever becomes Treasury secretary will have broad oversight of Wall Street, along with the power to set policy on currency and banking rules. This includes the supervisory powers created under the Dodd-Frank Act passed after the financial crisis, which Trump has said he wants to dismantle. The Treasury is also a major voice in global bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, which would matter in the event of an international financial crisis.
Hensarling is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Only one man currently serving in Congress has taken a bigger share of bribes from the Financial Sector he's supposed to be overseeing than Hensarling. Hensarling's legalistic bribes from Big Finance comes to $7,419,890. Who took more? Paul Ryan, of course: $9,045,683.
In mid-July, Trump's then-campaign manager Paul Manafort claimed that the Republican platform would advocate bringing back Glass-Steagall, which will, he said, “create barriers between what the big banks can do and try and avoid some of the crisis that led to 2008.” Although corrupt corporate Democrats– primarily Bill Clinton and the New Dems– have been complicit in repealing Glass-Steagall and preventing it from being re-introduced, killing it has always been and remains much more a Republican Party priority, a scheme first put forward by reactionary Texas Senator Phil Gramm (currently Washington's sleaziest and most corrupt bank lobbyist). If Trump really attempts to act on this– few thing he will– he'll be going up against another Republican policy long supported by the party leadership including both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.
Trying, at the time, to sound like a Berniecrat, Manafort told the media that the Trumpists “believe that the Obama-Clinton years have passed legislation that has been favorable to big banks, which is why you see all of the Wall Street money going to her. They know she’s their champion, and they’re supporting her fully. We are supporting small banks and Main Street.”
I suspect most voters couldn't tell you what “Glass-Steagall” means but reinstating it has been one of the principles on which Bernie's campaign was based and on which the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party is based. The law was repealed with a big bipartisan majority of Wall Street whores in 1999 to help pave the way for the formation of Citigroup Inc. by the $46 billion merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group. It tore down the wall that separated investment and consumer banking functions. In 1999 when progressives began demanding it be reinstated, even Steny Hoyer realized a colossal error has been made. The corrupt Maryland conservaDem told his colleagues that “as someone who voted to repeal Glass-Steagall, maybe that was a mistake.” Among those voting against repeal back in 1999 were unwavering progressives in the House like Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Conyers (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA). Among today's luminaries who backed repeal are Paul Ryan (R-WI), Fred Upton (R-MI), John Kasich (R-OH), Joe Crowley (New Dem-NY), Harold Ford, Jr. (Blue Dog-TN), and Ted Strickland (D-OH… and the DSCC still doesn't understand why he was defeated so resoundingly for a Senate seat 2 weeks ago).
Hensarling wasn't a member of Congress in 1999 but he has been an unwavering supporter of the bankster agenda since getting elected in 2002. His overarching goal is to repeal Dodd-Frank and he is a top foe of reinstating Glass-Steagall. Wall Street has rewarded him with $7,419,890 in bribes/contributes since 2002. Aside from Hensarling the top 10 crooks on his committee in terms of bribes accepted from Wall Street are all opponents of reinstating Glass Steagall:
• Ed Royce (R-CA)- $6,806,697
• Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)- $5,456,385
• Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)- $5,424,062
• Scott Garrett (R-NJ)- $4,975,549 [defeated, but by another Wall Street whore]
• Steve Stivers (R-OH)- $4,187,437
• Patrick McHenry (R-NC)- $3,974,361
• Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)- $3,658,336[defeated]
• Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)- $3,463,970
• Gregory Meeks (New Dem-NY)- $3,122,288
• Peter King (R-NY)- $2,741,074
And Jeff Sessions hasn't been a big favorite of the Wall Street bankster set. Since first being elected to the Senate in 1996, all he's gotten in bank loot has been a paltry $2,497,115. Let's hope he wants some revenge.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis