Wed, 9 January 2013
Wall Street’s Untouchables
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“The feds did what the government always does with Wall Street criminals: they settled.”
The federal government and the nation’s biggest banks have reached yet another settlement in the Crime Of The Century – or, one of those crimes that are supposed to come around only once a century but seem to pop up every year or so nowadays, as finance capitalism rushes towards its final collapse. The $8.5 billion deal is the second settlement in what was called the robo-signing scandal, in which banksters took possession of homes whose mortgages they could not prove they actually owned.
If ever there were a capital corporate crime, this was it – a mega-theft so monstrously destructive it merited French Revolution-style justice, with hundreds of one-way trips to the guillotine. Instead, what we got was presidential intervention, during Obama’s last State of the Union address, when he announced that there would be a settlement with the states to avoid state prosecutions of the banks. The robo-signing investigation would pass into the gentle hands of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whom the bankers had no reason to fear, and the states would divide up $25 billion, much of which would never reach victimized homeowners.
This week’s second settlement of the same scandal is a bizarre derivative of the first deal. The banks had agreed to hire outside consultants to pour through their books to determine how many homes had been unlawfully seized, loan modifications wrongfully denied, and fees improperly charged. By late last year, the consultants were nowhere near finished, when federal regulators called off the exercise, calling it hopeless and too expensive. So, the feds did what the government always does with Wall Street criminals. They settled, this time for $8.5 billion – while consumer advocates say the actual damage to homeowners was many times that.
“The banks’ books are vast crime scenes.”
It’s an educated guess that the independent auditors took so long sifting through the records because the banks’ books are vast crime scenes, covered in the life’s-blood of millions of consumers. Not the kind of treasure trove of criminal evidence that one should rush through, if one is seeking justice. However, what this administration seeks is not justice, but settlements that allow the banksters to pay a fine, stay out of jail, and get on with crime as usual.
Eric Holder is the Settler-in-Chief. That’s his job. Remember that other Crime Of The Century, the LIBOR interest rate-fixing scandal, the one that reached into every crease and crevice of the world economy. Attorney General Holder vowed to build criminal cases against the perpetrators, which included virtually the entire U.S. and European banking cartel. What he did was give out so many immunities from prosecution he looked like Abraham Lincoln on Emancipation Day. In this way, lots of evidence is gathered, but nobody goes to jail.
Eric Holder is actually the Get Out of Jail Attorney General. Not Get Out of Jail Free – the banks do have to pay a fine, which is called a settlement, and is viewed as a cost of doing business. And since the only business Wall Street knows how to do is crime, it’s back on the roller coaster for another screaming ride – until, finally, the whole contraption goes off the rails. How long? Not long.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.