Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Bank Settlements for Criminal Activity—and Willie



Would you buy a used car from a dealer who had been repeatedly sued for false claims and screwing his buyers? I guess not and yet we keep doing business with major banks that do the same.

Bernie Madoff is in jail right now, serving 150 years for duping investors in a Ponzi scheme. Justice served, but Bernie’s a bit-part player in widespread international fraud, a very small fish in an enormous pond of barracuda.

Yet the top seven major American banks settle enormous claims against them for fraud out of court, with no jail time for CEOs and what amounts to a hand-slap penalty.

Last week, leaders of seven of the country’s largest banks testified before the House Financial Services Committee that, a decade after the global financial crisis, the industry is financially healthier and less risky.


Financially healthier I don’t doubt for a minute. Which brings up an interesting point. These high-end dudes are dead against any socialist help for we the people, but they’re hyper enthusiastic about socialism for the banks. They get their trillions of bad debts paid off by the taxpayer and start again with a clean sheet—socialism in reverse would be the most accurate definition.

Makes me chuckle that Al Capone once said “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” Guess good old Chicago Al got it right.

Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day. Instead, let’s take a quick look at what these banksters have been up to since 2008.

The American Division of HSBC bank laundered $881 billion for Mexican drug cartels according to the Justice Dept. They paid a $1.9 billion penalty. That left them $879 billion to the good, with no admission of crime, a Rolodex of dicey future contacts and no jail time.

In 2016 Goldman Sachs reached a $5.1 billion mortgage bond fraud settlement. The settlement by Goldman was the latest in a series of multibillion dollar penalties levied against Wall Street banks. The fraud played a key role in triggering the 2008 economic crisis. No one admitted fraud and no one went to jail. When the stock market opened after the news, Goldman stock dropped by—get this—nine cents.

Bank of America has paid out tens of billions of dollars in fines as a result of its role in the housing crisis. JPMorgan reached a settlement with the government and paid out $13 billion. No jail time in either case.

Which brings us to Willie. Let me tell you his story.

(GAWKER, Hamilton Nolan, 08/10/12-Edited) Last September, outside of an Austin, Texas Sears store, Willie James Sauls snatched a purse off the arm of an 84 year-old woman and fled. That's fucked up. This week, a state district judge sentenced Sauls to 45 years in prison for his crime. That is far more fucked up.

Forty five years. That’s more time than Sauls, 37, has spent on this planet to date. The justification for the sentence, via the Austin American-Statesman: Prosecutors Geoffrey Puryear and Amy Meredith said Sauls has previous convictions for retaliation and robbery and is a street gang member.


Jesus Christ (remember that guy, Texans? Preached forgiveness and compassion?), there must be some sense of proportion in criminal sentencing, or you delegitimize the entire practice. The worst thing about sentencing a man to 45 years in prison for a purse snatching is that it's an outrage to fundamental human decency and justice. If you're gonna get 45 years for purse snatching, why not just kill the witness, while you're at it? Why not rob a bank instead? The penalty if you're caught won't be much worse.

This same combination of outrageous injustice and practical imbecility applies to "Three Strikes" laws as well. But Texas doesn't even need the pretext of a mandatory tough-on-crime sentence. They'll lock you up and throw away the key just out of pure meanness. To sentence a 37 year-old man to 45 years in prison is to effectively declare that rehabilitation is a farce, that people will never change, and that inflicting painful punishment is the driving purpose of the criminal justice system. A perfect embodiment of American prisons, really.

Don't ever be poor in Texas if you can possibly help it.

Interesting, what? The prosecutor said he noted that Sauls has been to prison and "already had chances to address the issues with his behavior.”

Yeah well, dare I note that Jamie Dimon and the other six bank CEOs before the House Financial Services Committee had also "already had chances to address the issues with their behavior” and seemingly didn’t give a shit?

The old lady’s purse probably had thirty or forty bucks in it. The banksters sitting smugly before the Committee committed fraud in the trillions of dollars against the American taxpayer.

Did any of them go to jail—even for a day? Was there a cell available next to Bernie Madoff? No to the first question and probably for the second.

But tally up the fines paid by the banks since 2008: Bank of America ($90 billion), Citigroup ($20 billion), Glodman Sachs ($10 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($39 billion), Morgan Stanley ($5.8 billion) and Wells Fargo ($17 billion). That’s a total of nearly $182 billion and counting—we’re far from done with them yet.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) questioned whether the banks had really changed over the last decade, reading a list of the millions of dollars in fines the banks had each paid in recent years. Noting that young people in her district can go to jail for jumping a subway turnstile, Ocasio-Cortez asked Dimon, the chief executive of the country’s largest bank, why more people had not been punished for the global financial crisis.

I don’t think people should go to jail for jumping a subway. I think we put too many into jail, and I think if people broke the law they should go to jail,” Dimon said.

Well, he and others clearly broke the law—that’s what they settled for all those billions. But then Dimon’s neither poor nor does he live in Texas.




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