Bankers gone wild! Let’s tally some of their crimes:
JPMorgan Chase engaged in massive, systematic fraud to foreclose without cause or due process on innocent homeowners, tossing thousands of families into the streets.
Goldman Sachs profited by marketing an investment package that was designed to fail, collecting fat fees on each sale to unsuspecting investors who lost millions, while the bank also collected millions more from a side bet it made that, sure enough, its package would be a loser.
For years, HSBC has been butt deep in a swamp of despicable, illegal money-laundering schemes, willingly processing billions of dirty dollars for vicious drug cartels and peddlers of arms to terrorist forces at war with America.
Many more examples abound. These are not poor saps desperately robbing a branch bank for a few hundred dollars, but criminal enterprises run by multimillionaire Wall Streeters who run in the finest social circles, are celebrated by the media and hobnob with the nation’s political elite.
Their corruption is complete; their crimes are documented. Yet, unlike sad-sack bank robbers, none of these Robbing Bankers have even been prosecuted, much less jailed. In fact, as revealed on PBS’ Frontline program earlier this year, frustrated prosecutors who served in the Justice Department’s criminal division two years ago report that “when it came to Wall Street, there were no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.”
Why is that? Where are the cops on the Wall Street beat?
Up in the suites, coddling the culprits, whom they know on a first-name basis. That’s because Attorney General Eric Holder and the chief of his criminal division, Lanny Breuer, have previously enjoyed lucrative careers as lawyers defending the very barons they’re now supposed to be prosecuting. Holder and Breuer both hail from the same Washington law firm, Covington & Burling, that specializes in representing corporate clients with legal issues at the Justice Department.
The moral here is clear: When engaged in high crimes, it literally pays to have friends in the highest places.
To transport them there, a secret cosmic door connects the parallel universes of Washington and Wall Street. It’s not the proverbial revolving door, but a wide-open passageway for easy flow back and forth — reserved for those in the know.
Breuer is one definitely in the know, passing with impunity from the job of defending Wall Street wrongdoers in cases before the Justice Department to being the department’s chief prosecutor of Wall Street wrongdoing.
Four years ago, he left Covington & Burling, where he represented Wall Street clients, to head the criminal division of Justice. Dismissing criticism that his long service to Wall Street banksters created an inherent conflict of interest with his new duty to the public, Breuer insisted that he’d be a better prosecutor “because of my deep experience in the private sector.”
That claim would’ve proven more convincing had he brought even a single case against the Wall Street executives who’ve been publicly exposed as self-enriching perpetrators of widespread fraud and other destructive financial crimes. But, no, not one.
Why? Call me cynical, but perhaps because he was using his four years at Justice to pad his resume and enhance his value to Wall Street. Protecting bankers from prosecution could be a good career move.
No surprise, then, that Breuer headed back through that cosmic door, rejoining Covington in a specially created position to expand its role in defending corporate clients charged with foreign bribery, money laundering, securities fraud and such. “I’m a zealous advocate,” said the guy who studiously refrained from being a zealous prosecutor. “I look forward to being a zealous advocate for our clients again,” he added.
Sheesh, couldn’t he at least pretend to have some ethics? Instead, Lanny was relieved to be back on Wall Street’s side: “It’s my professional home,” he confessed.” Oh, did I mention that his starting salary at Covington will be $4 million a year?
— Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.