Everyone knows that Eric Holder – the head of the Department of Not-Much Justice – has said that the big banks are too big to jail.
And many people know that – prior to becoming the Attorney General – Holder was a partner at a big firm which did some despicable things to represent the big banks and MERS.
But Holder’s see-no-evil act actually started more than a decade ago.
Specifically, in 1999, as Deputy Attorney General, Holder wrote a memo arguing against prosecuting large financial service companies:
Prosecutors may consider the collateral consequences of a corporate criminal conviction in determining whether to charge the corporation with a criminal offense.
One of the factors in determining whether to charge a natural person or a corporation is whether the likely punishment is appropriate given the nature and seriousness of the crime. In the corporate context, prosecutors may take into account the possibly substantial consequences to a corporation’s officers, directors, employees, and shareholders, many of whom may, depending on the size and nature (e.g., publicly vs. closely held) of the corporation and their role in its operations, have played no role in the criminal conduct, have been completely unaware of it, or have been wholly unable to prevent it. Further, prosecutors should also be aware of non-penal sanctions that may accompany a criminal charges, such as potential suspension or debarment from eligibility for government contracts or federal funded programs such as health care. Whether or not such non-penal sanctions are appropriate or required in a particular case is the responsibility of the relevant agency, a decision that will be made based on the applicable statutes, regulations, and policies.
Virtually every conviction of a corporation, like virtually every conviction of an individual, will have an impact on innocent third parties ….
Matt Taibbi points out that – when the Department of Justice subsequently prosecuted accounting giant Arthur Andersen for covering up Enron’s fraudulent schemes – Anderson ran with Holder’s argument, and threatened the DOJ “using their employees as human shields”.
Specifically, Andersen said that – unless the DOJ dropped the prosecution – innocent Andersen employees would lose their jobs.
Andersen was prosecuted and convicted, and some innocent employees – as well as the big time fraudsters – lost their jobs. Since then, the Justice Department has gotten so gun-shy that we basically haven’t had any criminal indictments against a large financial services company since then.
In the wake of the recent revelations that the big banks manipulate virtually every market in the world, and that HSBC blatantly laundered drug cartel money, Holder has said that we can’t indict big companies because that might harm the U.S. or world economy.
And Matt Taibbi notes that – for the first time – Holder is now saying that not only can’t we indict the companies, but we can’t even indict any of the individual criminals at the companies. In other words, Holder is implementing a permanent shield for employees and executives at large institutions.
One of our favorite topics is the many ways that big banks manipulate prices.
Last night, Rolling Stone financial writer Matt Taibbi gave some very interesting details about how the big banks have gamed commodities prices.
For 60 to 70 years, the regulations preventing speculators from betting on commodities worked pretty well. Only commodity producers or buyers – you know, the people who are supposed set prices – could hedge their bets.
But in the early 1990s, the big financial companies starting applying to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for “exemptions” … so that they could speculate on commodities.
Specifically, they asked to be artificially treated as real commodity producers or consumers – even though they weren’t producing or buying commodities – so that they could “hedge” bets (in name only) on products they didn’t even possess. (Sound familiar?)
In 1991, the CFTC issuing exemption letters. The first letter was written to J. Aron, a subsidiary of … Goldman Sachs.
Pretty soon, every major bank in the U.S. was given an exemption.
Congress didn’t know about the exemptions. Indeed, the House Agricultural Commission – which oversees the CFTC – didn’t even find out about the exemptions until 6 years later … in 1997.
When a congressman on the Agricultural Commission asked the CFTC for a sample of one of the exemption letters, the CFTC official said he had to ask Goldman Sachs whether or not the CFTC could show a copy to Congress. In other words, the banks were already running D.C. by the 90s.
Commodities speculation has exploded since the exemption letters were issues.
For example, in 2003, there was only $29 billion in speculative activity in the commodities markets. By 2007-2008, there was over $300 billion in commodities speculation.
Icelandic Parliament: Big Icelandic Banks Were Public Banks … Which Were Privatized FOR FREE Shortly Before They Tanked
Birgitta Jonsdottir is a member of the Icelandic parliament. She knows a good deal about the financial crisis. Indeed, before being elected to parliament, she made a documentary about the collapse of Iceland’s economy as an investigative journalist.
Last night, Jonsdottir (pronounced “yont-Daughter”) disclosed a stunning fact in a speech I attended:
All our banks were actually public. They were privatized a few years prior to the financial crisis.
Jonsdottir explained that Iceland’s banks grew to 5-7 times the size of the country’s GDP during the county’s brief bubble after privatization.
And the Icelandic parliament – in a fact-finding report – later found that the bankers never paid anything to “buy” the banks from the government or the people. In other words, sweetheart deals and corruption meant that a handful of people looted the banks without paying a penny.
America is analogous. The prosperity which our ancestors worked so hard to build – and the very vision of prosperity of the Founding Fathers – has been looted.
Jonsdottir says that it wasn’t just the bankers who were corrupt … it was also the Icelandic politicians, media, academia … all of the people in a position of power.