Era of Impunity

9 Jun

I am listening to the recording of my recent conversation with aging Celtic scribe Pete Hamill (which should see the light of day at,uh,soon) and Hamill mentions his ire about what he refers to as an “era of impunity” This is an antipathy I, and I would hope, many people,share with Pete. There are a multitude of reasons and factors — a shitstream of distractions like the bizarre tale of a US Congressman and untoward sexual predilections and moral cowardice in owning up to their publicity,being one recent example.

However it is possible that in waiting for some form of justice, aggrieved Americans are being impatient. Given the unconstructive and more and more frequently, the kooky behavior of the people entrusted with governance things will not likely improve for most Americans any time soon. And because of the,uh stalled economic recovery, the plundering of the middle class by white collar flim flam artists is a story that will not go away.

The problem is that while much of what ails the US is structural and would require drastic remedies,even so it would be so right that some of the right buttons are pushed to send some of the crook’s on Wall Street to the pokey. In an unforgettable article last year, Matt Taibi provides compelling history about the investment bank Goldman Sachs. He begins

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

One hopes that reader’s will use the above link to Taiibbi’s piece to read it in its entirety. And perhaps the inspiring (ok, I admit its odd what passes for inspiration in these distracted times) news in his recent follow up will excite them to pay attention to these far from the front page proceedings in Washington:

They weren’t murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.

Thanks to an extraordinary investigative effort by a Senate subcommittee that unilaterally decided to take up the burden the criminal justice system has repeatedly refused to shoulder, we now know exactly what Goldman Sachs executives like Lloyd Blankfein and Daniel Sparks lied about. We know exactly how they and other top Goldman executives, including David Viniar and Thomas Montag, defrauded their clients. America has been waiting for a case to bring against Wall Street. Here it is, and the evidence has been gift-wrapped and left at the doorstep of federal prosecutors, evidence that doesn’t leave much doubt: Goldman Sachs should stand trial.

The great and powerful Oz of Wall Street was not the only target of Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse, the 650-page report just released by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, alongside Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Their unusually scathing bipartisan report also includes case studies of Washington Mutual and Deutsche Bank, providing a panoramic portrait of a bubble era that produced the most destructive crime spree in our history — “a million fraud cases a year” is how one former regulator puts it. But the mountain of evidence collected against Goldman by Levin’s small, 15-desk office of investigators — details of gross, baldfaced fraud delivered up in such quantities as to almost serve as a kind of sarcastic challenge to the curiously impassive Justice Department — stands as the most important symbol of Wall Street’s aristocratic impunity and prosecutorial immunity produced since the crash of 2008.

Here’s Matt Taibbi talking about why no one on Wall Street goes to jail:

Stay Tuned.

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