Accountability and Transparency in the World of Big Money: Banks too Big to Jail

AS BANKS SETTLE FRAUD COMPLAINTS, WHAT HAS REALLY BEEN SETTLED IN THE CONFLICT WITH THE BANKSTERS?

Published on Global Research.ca, by Danny Schechter, August 18, 2010.

… We all wonder why there have been so few prosecutions and convictions of Wall Street higher ups.

The while world blames the United States for plunging the world economy into crisis but executives here are able to maneuver around findings of pervasive fraud in real estate, sleazy practices of securitization and devious insurance policies by “settling” complaints written off as a cost of doing business and passed on to shareholders. Meanwhile we pass financial “reforms” that will take years to implement and are much softer than the rules in most other countries. Britain, for one, has made fighting financial fraud a priority. 

Corruption in our country is still seen more as personal transgressions, not institutional practices. Charlie Rangel’s apartments get more people upset than the trillions that have vanished in the crisis. Remember Bernie Madoff only went down after confessing to his crime. He was not jailed as a result of any enforcement investigation.

The watchdogs have been asleep at the switch and so has most of the media which still treats this crisis as the result of faulty business decisions (by some of the “smartest people in the room.”)

This is an important subject filled with emotion and acrimony. My own investigation found that the notion that all was legal misses some key facts and too narrowly looks at the problem.

We had three industries collaborating in crimes of industrial proportions—real estate, finance (with the collusion of ratings agencies) and insurance giants like AIG. They worked together in pedaling mortgages designed to fail, securitizing them for resale as “structured financial products” with misrepresented values, and then insured themselves against defaults that they knew would occur.

They then leveraged all of this from billions into trillions that they reinvested and pocketed fueling the growing transfer of wealth from the middle class to the richest. Many of these mortgages were designed to fail. Now the arrears on them threaten the economy itself.

Unraveling this can’t be handled as individual cases under laws set up to protect investors, not homeowners or workers. The securities laws require showing “intent” which is hard to prove and easy to deny. The well organized and collusive practices between these businesses that have harmed so many can only be prosecuted under RICO laws used against the mafia.

To use them, we first need a full-fledged investigation that shows the criminal enterprise. It must subpoena documents and compel testimony. That’s how real cases are built.

Instead of working to cultivate insider informants and whistle blowers the US Government has imprisoned one, as the National Whistleblowers Center reminds us. They report, “As 60 Minutes re-airs its piece on UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, who unmasked the role of a powerful Swiss bank (in attracting US tax evaders,) most important international whistleblower in history has now served 7 months (and counting) in federal prison.”

Once you do the crime, you seem to get airtime. My own research and warnings on the issue have been ignored. I have made two films and written three books and countless blogs and commentaries on this subject. I am articulate and can present the case for a crime narrtative with clips from my film and arguments from my book. Yet, I am not getting on TV outlets to discuss it much less debate it.

Is it my credentials? I am a graduate of the London School of Economics and Cornell’s ILR program. I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, and produced the first network prime-time investigation on the S&L crisis for ABC’s 20/20.

Now, I seem to be getting on the air only overseas, not on the networks I once worked for. It’s not that the subject is irrelevant or not newsy. Perhaps, it is just verboten. (full text).

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