By Robert A. Vella
Yesterday, five of the most powerful financial institutions in the world pleaded guilty to charges relating to currency manipulation and market rigging. Today, none of their executives face criminal prosecution.
Meanwhile, the increasingly privatized U.S. prison system is brimming with poor and minority inmates often convicted of nothing more than simple drug possession. The for-profit corporations who run these prisons are being paid by – yes, you guessed it – American taxpayers.
Is this justice? No, it is unequal justice. If you have a lot of money, the system works for you. If you don’t, the system puts you in jail. The severity of your crime is irrelevant.
While the corporatist politicians in the Democratic and Republican parties – who represent the ruling plutocratic establishment – offer up pragmatic reasons for this prejudicial application of law, more principled leaders are speaking out against it. From The Hill – Big bucks, but no bankers jailed in $5.7B settlement:
On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced a settlement that also saw five banks plead guilty to illegal gaming of financial markets. But the new settlement, the latest in a long series of hefty payouts by bad-acting banks, did little to tamp down vocal criticism from the left that the Obama administration is doing little to actually change Wall Street’s course and culture.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the new settlement hours after the Justice Department hailed its historic nature — specifically that no individual bank employees faced criminal charges, even as the overall institutions pleaded guilty to criminal wrongdoing.
“The big banks have been caught red-handed conspiring to manipulate financial markets … but not a single trader is being held individually accountable,” she said in a statement. “That’s not accountability for Wall Street. It’s business as usual, and it stinks.” [emphasis added by TSJ]
“Since 2009, huge financial institutions have paid $176 billion in fines and settlement payments for fraudulent and unscrupulous activities,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for president, said Wednesday. “The reality is that seven years after too-big-to-fail banks crashed the economy, fraud still appears to be the business model on Wall Street.” [emphasis added by TSJ]
Even mainstream journalists are joining in on the cascade of criticism. From Bloomberg – U.S. Prosecutors Can Hang Felonies on Big Banks: Now What?:
The criminal admissions by five banks including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — on top of the two extracted last year from Credit Suisse AG and BNP Paribas SA — barely registered in markets, where investors were primed for the news. The Securities and Exchange Commission helped ensure the pleas wouldn’t hurt banks’ businesses, deciding late Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the vote, to give the banks the permission they needed to keep managing mutual funds and issuing certain securities.
The idea that felon banks could be welcomed back to society, after writing a check but spending no time in the penalty box, could end up backfiring on the Justice Department, according to some academics and former prosecutors. Now that it’s clear that a guilty plea’s damage can be mitigated, they reason, it may be harder for prosecutors to hold the threat of prosecution over their heads in future efforts to address wrongdoing.
The extreme scenario, while unlikely, is that a bank could attempt to call the Justice Department’s bluff, by threatening to enlist a legion of lawyers to battle the department’s accusation in court, some of these people said.
“At the end of the road, you have normalized criminal activity and some day, someone’s going to say, I’m going to take you on,” said Arthur Wilmarth, professor at George Washington University School of Law. [emphasis added by TSJ]
The United States is supposed to be a republic, based on the rule of law, having representative democracy. But unless its laws are applied equally (without bias), and its citizenry is able to make government work properly (without corruption), then it can be neither.
Indeed, the decision makers and those who carry out their orders in the banking establishment are guilty of criminal acts that caused egregious harm and suffering for millions of people. Has anyone counted the number of families that became homeless as a result? How many committed suicide or were unable to access health care? How much they made from death and destruction relative to the paltry fines they paid?
Well put, Carol. Very well put.
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Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.
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