Will Wall Street Ever Face Justice? – NYTimes.com
Four years after the disintegration of the financial system, Americans have, rightfully, a gnawing feeling that justice has not been served. Claims of financial fraud against companies like Citigroup and Bank of America have been settled for pennies on the dollar, with no admission of wrongdoing. Executives who ran companies that made, packaged and sold trillions of dollars in toxic mortgages and mortgage-backed securities remain largely unscathed.
Meager resources have been applied to investigate the financial assault on our country, which wiped away trillions of dollars in household wealth and has resulted in 24 million people jobless or underemployed. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which Congress created to examine the full scope of the crisis, was given a budget of $9.8 million — roughly one-seventh of the budget of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations did its work on the financial crisis with only a dozen or so Congressional staff members.
Phil Angelides, the author of the above column, shares an identical opinion to mine. Justice has not been served.
I wrote extensively about the mortgage crisis back when business writers considered it a matter of a few small mistakes in the paperwork that weren’t worth getting upset over. I watched day by day as we learned about robo-signing, error laden foreclosures sometimes on homes that the client owned outright, and the use of a federal government program called HAMP to push people out of their homes and force them to pay outrageous penalties. The federal government did not even keep records of what HAMP was doing for the first six months and the fact that it was run by a twenty year bank veteran did not surprise. There wasn’t any fox in the hen-house, there was a rabid lion operating with permission to prey at will.
Millions of Americans suffered. Barely treading water, troubled by lost jobs, debts and predatory banks, the hard-working people of America were thrown an anvil by a federal government laden with former bankers in every conceivable position. It’s a sad story and reflects badly on the President of the United States who promised us better.
I was not surprised when the claims of homeowners and criminal prosecution of these mortgages companies were settled for a pittance. It would have been one of the saddest days of my life if in the months leading up to the settlement I had not experienced over and over again a federal government immune to the calls of justice and accountability. The settlement was just another nail in the coffin of fairness, a level playing field of law for the middle class and those who would prey upon them.
It remains to be seen whether or not a White House now deserted by its Wall Street Financial Backers will pursue a tougher attitude toward enforcement of the law.
Phil Angelides talk about the real cause of the financial shortcomings in state budgets