Thursday, January 24, 2013

Banksters' Paradise

Only a day after he was showcased whining and obfuscating about his failure to bring criminal charges against any top Wall Street executives, the chief of the DOJ's criminal division has suddenly up and quit. Nobody's saying if he was fired before he resigned, but what is certain is that the Justice Department is attacking the producer of the PBS documentary, called The Untouchables. It seems they were deeply touched by the whole thing. And public servants to private interests that they are, will never sit still for another grilling, ever again.

The program effectively puts on full display the outright complicity between the government and the too big to fail/too big to jail banks. Lanny Breuer, the revolving-door white collar criminal defense lawyer in question, as much as admitted that his personal angst about the continued existence of financial monster institutions was the prime driver in his decision not to prosecute any head honchos. Moreover, he claimed, since so many of the alleged institutional victims of the various frauds were just as crooked as the perpetrators themselves, and probably knew and didn't care that they were being cheated, he can't prove that crimes were committed. Plus, if he went after the big shots, he'd have to go after their lawyers and accountants too. Lanny Breuer, a former defense lawyer for white collar criminals, would never dream of eating his own:
And if I show that sophisticated Bank One is doing a transaction with sophisticated Bank Two, and sophisticated Bank Two knows fully what it’s getting into or doesn’t care at all what the first representations are, then I cannot bring a case.
… The other issue we have here in those kinds of transactions [is] for the most part, you had the most sophisticated bankers and lawyers and accountants as consultants. So for me to bring a criminal case, I have to show that the very sophisticated lawyers on Wall Street who worked on this, the very sophisticated accountants, that either they were in on the crime, or frankly, what is reality is that in these disclosure documents out there, there was enough disclosure that we cannot bring a criminal case.
Breuer just admitted we have a two-tiered system of justice in this country. If you can afford an army of lawyers and better yet, if you can prove your alleged victim has a nasty case of dirty hands himself, you are home free. This truth is old news, but it is a pretty stunning admission to make on national television. 

The first half of the Frontline documentary showed various whistleblowers telling reporters that they were under direct orders from their Wall Street bosses to overlook the fraud on the "liar loans" that were ultimately sliced, diced and repackaged into investments which the sellers also bet against for even more profits. The whistleblowers were never contacted by the Justice Department for help in investigating the massive fraud. Breuer made himself look petty and inept as he actually dissed these witnesses:

Another criticism that has been thrown at you is that you’ve not done enough to go looking for the whistle-blowers that are out there. We have been able to contact a number of people who were inside the banks, doing due diligence work as contractors, who all told us that they were never contacted by the Justice Department.
I can’t talk in general about nondescript, anonymous whistle-blowers. But here’s what I can tell you. Whenever I personally have been in any public setting, I’ve invited whistle-blowers to come forward.
But why don’t you go out and look for them?
We do go out and look for them. I don’t even know what more I could do. I speak publicly. Preet Bharara, [U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California] Andre Birotte on the West Coast, the U.S. attorneys speak about it. We have a forum where we talk about mortgage fraud and investment fraud, and we go around the country, and we have fora.
We’re available to the press. I’m available to Congress. We passed Dodd-Frank [Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act], which gives whistle-blowers a financial incentive to come forward. I talk to our regulators more than ever. And when journalists come forward and they talk about whistle-blowers or TV shows come on that talk about whistle-blowers who make your very claims, we have FBI agents and lawyers and regulators come speak to those people right away.
… It shouldn’t be so easy for journalists to go out and find whistle-blowers that at this point, four years after the meltdown, haven’t been contacted by Justice.
I don’t accept for one moment that you all are finding whistle-blowers that we’re not. What I do believe is then when we speak to the whistle-blowers, we have to make a determination whether what they say is really a criminal case.
So in your scenario, before where you say, “How is it possible that the bank is able to keep some of the proceeds and not pass it over?,” the whistle-blower may say, “I saw that the bank kept those proceeds.” I’m offended by it, but unfortunately, when we look at the documents, when we look at the origination materials and we look at the contracts, it says in those contracts that this reprehensible conduct is permitted. …
I am not a lawyer, but I seem to remember learning that contracts which condone/allow criminal behavior are illegal and uninforceable on their face, and can actually be thrown out of court, especially if they do harm to a third party. I guess criminal conspiracy laws don't apply to banks, especially since the lawyers and lobbyists banks actually write the laws in the first place.

Above all, Lanny Breuer is clear that his priorities lie in protecting the banks over the people of the United States:

I think I am pursuing justice. And I think the whole entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice. But in any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case there’s some huge economic effect, it affects the economy so that employees who had nothing to do with the wrongdoing of the company –
Or shareholders.
Well, first let’s talk about the employees. Employees may lose their jobs. Shareholders may or may not lose, and shareholders invested. But the employees perhaps did something different.
If it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly, it’s a factor we need to know and understand.
We have, as a government and as an administration, dug out of one of the great financial crises in the world. And at the Department of Justice, we’re being aggressive, but we should in fact take into consideration what the experts tell us.
And those order-giving experts, of course, come straight out of the Obama Treasury Department, and its revolving doors to and from Wall Street. It is surely only a coincidence that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also blowing town for greener pastures this week, right along with Lanny. These guys could play the identical cousins in a remake of the old Patty Duke Show. The duo may not look alike, but they sure talk alike, they walk alike, and they are definitely two of a kind. They both have that annoying habit, for instance, of huffily whining about how "personally offended" they get by both Wall Street greed and those who have the effrontery to challenge them about not getting deeply offended enough to actually prosecute the fraudsters. See Lanny's deep offense defense in the film and transcript. See a few of Tim's throes of extreme and deep personal offense here, here, and here. Geithner also performed a prelude to the Breuer Defense in D-Minor at the Brookings Institute last year:

"Most financial crises are caused by a mix of stupidity and greed and recklessness and risk-taking and hope," said Geithner, who helped tackle the crisis for the Bush administration when he was the head of the New York Federal Reserve and has been urging Europe to act more aggressively to contain its debt problems.
"You can't legislate away stupidity and risk-taking and greed and recklessness. What you can do is make sure when it happens it does not cause too much damage and to do that you have to make sure you have good rules against fraud and abuse, better protections and you force banks to hold more capital against their risk," he said.
What the Frontline documentary did not mention was that after a smirking Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein was raked over the coals by Senator Carl Levin in 2010, and Levin handed evidence of crimes on a silver platter to the Department of Justice, employees of the bank made a hasty and generous donation to the Obama re-election campaign war chest. And later, coincidentally of course, Breuer's boss, Eric Holder, decided that the evidence of fraud was not evidence of fraud.

The relationship between the Obama Administration and the banking industry has been long apparent, though new revelations of complicity are emerging all the time, thanks to private lawsuits and investigative journalism. The day after the PBS blockbuster aired, ProPublica was revealing that Morgan Stanley bankers were humorously aware enough of their own fraud to name their garbage packages such things as "Nuclear Holocaust", "Subprime Meltdown" and "Shitbag." Morgan Stanley executive William Daley, you may remember, served a brief stint as Obama's chief of staff before the revolving doors took him straight back to Morgan Stanley. His purpose at the White House was to make nice with big business and push back against Republican claims that Obama is not business-friendly. If only.

Meanwhile, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who managed to "lose" billions of dollars of client money in the London Whale Fail scandal, not only is walking free and acting like a jerk at the elite Davos convention in Switzerland this week, he is boastfully broadcasting his own immunity from prosecution. He sported, not FBI cuffs, but FBI cufflinks on the first day of the confab. When he was called before Congress to testify about the swindle last year, he wore his official magical protective Presidential Seal cufflinks as amulets. They worked.

Are you deeply offended? Or, like me, just deeply cynical?


Official Insignia of the National Protection Racket


Denis Neville said...

Banker exposed - Jaime Dimon’s new clothes

JPMorgan’s Dimon, “We’re doing the right thing.”

Profit-seeking gambling with the public’s money?

His $6 billion London Whale Fail loss is just a drop in the ocean of his gambling. JPMorgan’s $70 trillion of liabilities in derivatives is roughly equal to the size of the entire world economy. The notional value of the entire derivatives market is some $700 trillion, or ten times the size of the world economy.

Banks have been ‘ports in the storm’ according to Dimon.

What could possibly go wrong?

That must be why Lanny Breuer lays awake at night, worrying about the funds of poor widows and orphans, whose fate justifies trillions of dollars of fraud in order to protect their life savings in Dimon’s crooked bank.

Obama sleeps well and instead dreams of “reforming” those “outworn” Rooseveltian programs that those poor widows and orphans will also depend upon.

Where’s the shit storm????

Jay - Ottawa said...

the dots are many
they almost touch

connect the dots
draw the line through

no no say eric lanny
and all the obamabots

that’s just too much
might ignite a coup

James F Traynor said...

I've just finished seeing the Frontline program on bank fraud. Lanny Breuer was not only lying he was, and is, laughing at everybody.

Denis Neville said...

Even when someone takes a hit from a dream pipe, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's likely to happen.

Krugman, Geithner being both wrong and right, “maybe we will get that admission of defeat. But that’s what it will be — not a Grand Bargain between the parties, acting together in the nation’s interest.”

They are all suddenly going to take off in a new direction toward what the American public wants and is in the nation’s interest? Yeh, right!!!

Karen, I agree with you whole heartedly about taking the deficit hawks’ altruism with a gigantic cake of salt.

Geithner says, [recognize the code words ] “The magnitude of additional deficit reduction – revenue increases or spending cuts – that you need to lock in in order to achieve fiscal sustainability is pretty modest…a very modest amount of additional adjustment is required to achieve a pretty meaningful level of sustainability… the nature of the safety net and the role of the government in the economy are way, way exaggerated…you can achieve that additional margin with pretty modest changes. You don’t need to dismantle or roll back the basic safety net for seniors and healthcare to achieve sustainability… it should be relatively easy to reach an agreement… It was definitely my view, and it still is, that our ability to get more growth-promoting policies out of the Congress is contingent on our ability to put in place long-term fiscal reforms that restore sustainability.”

When asked if Paul Ryan would agree with him, Geithner replies, “I think he would.”

Altruism is just not in their genes. The poors never get enough beatings. It is only their dogma that matters. They just close their eyes when people are plunged into poverty and despair.

Recall that Paul Ryan, an Irish Catholic, praises the dogmas that drove the Great Hunger in Ireland. Has Krugman forgotten what he wrote not long ago?

“Mr. Ryan isn’t just looking for ways to save money. He’s also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor — for their own good. In March, explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, he declared, ‘We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.’”

The English elites’ claimed that God wanted to teach the Irish “a lesson” and that “calamity must not be too much mitigated.” Even after they saw the results - mass deaths and emigrations – of their laissez faire fairy tales, the British elites displayed total dishonesty - “too much has been done for the people.”

Even today, Great Britain is pressing ahead with its austerity plans despite a warning from the International Monetary Fund to slow the pace of cuts.

And we will more than likely do the same damn thing.

Will said...

Where's the shitstorm?

We used to openly wonder where it was until September 2011, when it finally arrived in the form of the Occupy movement. Oh, we were so optimistic back then, remember? (We even used the R-word in our comments!) Then the jackbooted thugs of the Police State crushed us like insects, the NDAA was passed, the courts offered no relief, and we supposedly educated white middle-class buffoons finally realized what the oppressed peoples of our country have known since forever: We're totally FUCKED. We have no rights. The Constitution isn't worth shit. We have no chance. We're going to lose.*

*Sure, we can fight the good fight all we want. We SHOULD fight till our last breath, just on principle alone. But make no mistake, we're going down.

There, I finally said it.

Pearl said...

Dear Friends: I see a great deal of discouragement in your comments for
which there is ample reason. However, things will change. Not probably in
any of our lifetimes, perhaps slowly, but it is inevitable. So meanwhile,
let's continue to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted and be a wise beacon for others.
And you never know, events can create change on their own and rapidly A few
familiar comments to keep our spirits up.

Karen Garcia said...

Well, to make us even more cheerful, here is my response to Paul Krugman's latest column on the waning influence of the deficit hawks:

The deficit hawks are making a big show of sheathing their talons, and playing along with the resurgence of liberalism. Lloyd Blankfein is teaming up with Arianna Huffington in a global campaign to empower 10,000 women! The Fix the Debt plutocrats are joining up with the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to address the deficit!

They're touting a new Pew Poll that shows the deficit is now a respectable Number Three in the populist sweepstakes, after the economy and jobs! Of course, the public only responded the way it did because the mass media were totally complicit in spreading the manufactured debt hysteria, non-stop, for the past many months. But now that the fiscal cliff has been averted, and we are in Fake Crisis Limbo, people are again noticing that we still have no jobs, no money, and no social equality.

Don't count out the plutocrat scolds just yet. They will evolve. And keep a close watch on the Duopoly. There is that little matter of Harry Reid folding on the filibuster, which may provide just the grid-locky fig leaf for some stealthy bipartisan safety net cuts in the not-too-distant future. And despite all his liberal rhetoric, the president expressed the need to "change outworn programs", adding “We must take the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”

So we must stay vigilant about those mysterious hard choices. The rhetoric and propaganda may change, but the goals remain the same. Wall Street still owns the place.

hermanas said...

Dear Karen, Love your NYT comments. The New Paltz byline caught my eye, I'm N.P.H.S.class'66. Had a classmate Ray Garcia, very classy guy. Keep up the good work, I'm very proud of you. Eric F.

Denis Neville said...

Fox in the Hen House

President Barack Obama has named Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"You don't want to mess with Mary Jo," said Obama.

The White House and most of the lame stream media are touting her credentials as a former New York prosecutor and Obama’s commitment to carrying out Wall Street reform.

Great! So finally may be we will get justice for the Wall Street crimes!!

Whoa, Nelly!!!

I remember watching a debate (White, Neil Barfosky, Barry Ritholtz, Lanny Breuer) at NYU where White expressed doubts about whether banks had committed crimes. She warned against prosecuting "mistaken behavior, what is even reckless risk-taking."

Look at White's biography from her current law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. She’s been defending white collar corporate and Wall Street criminals and getting them off the hook for a decade. Wall Street was totally enamored and gushed: “Clients assert that in light of her years as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, she ‘stands alone’ for her ‘phenomenal talent’ in white collar and commercial defense matters.”

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is thrilled with her nomination to the SEC: “I have met Mary Jo White, and anyone who knows her at all - extremely capable, competent, bright, tough, and a perfect choice.”

White's spouse is a former top SEC official and is co-head of the group at law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP that advises companies on their public reporting obligations and corporate governance—central SEC issues and lobbies heavily against SEC regulations.

White coming for the likes of Jamie Dimon? Heh heh!!

Sounds more like a fox in the hen house.

Karen is right. Wall Street still owns the place

James F Traynor said...

Hell, it's the Ptolemys all over again. Governmental incest galore.

spreadoption said...

Money breeds irresponsibility... and so does power.

Once again, as always, Obama plays the perfectly willing puppet for our financial and corporate Mafia. The perfect narcissist. An exquisite example of the "successful psychopath". Lacking any sense of responsibility for the enormous harm he is creating. He's no leader, not in the true sense of that word; just another chump. Every time he pops up on TV now I get a visceral and clearly visible acute bad reaction... as I lurch for the Off button, swearing.

Everywhere you look, at every level of society, the corruption is both breathtaking and mind-numbing. Closer to home, our county executives will be getting double-digit increases in their salaries. I've got no venom left; all I can do now is laugh. It's all so perfect!

In his latest article, Paul Craig Roberts, another of those insightful former and reformed Reagan insiders, predicts that capitalist greed will extinguish the human race, and indeed all life on Earth, sooner than we can manage to emigrate. "Will the idiots who rule the earth destroy it before humans can escape to other planets? From all evidence, the destruction of earth’s ecology has an immense head start on homo sapiens’ ability to colonize space."

I like to say, It's worse than ya think! And the deeper you look the "even worser" it gets, making it hard to disagree with PCR and the thinkers he quotes.

We here at Sardonicky seem to have among the best seats in the house for the circus that is our own demise.

Thanks, Karen, for your amazing contributions to our understanding.

Pearl said...

The recent decision to allow women to join the men in military combat has put another damper on my vision of emancipated women moving us forward politically. Gail Collins' recent column on this topic has resulted in myriads of support for this move with many current and past female members of the military and women's movements loudly proclaiming this as an important move forward for their sex. Editorials and letters to the Editor have also been favorable to this change comparing it to the acceptance of gay soldiers, gay marriage as evidence of similar progress.

So, Michelle has pegged this narrow vision of progress correctly in her efforts to encourage support and help for military personnel and families. There were a number of excellent letters denouncing this unquestioning attitude toward allowing women in combat during wars by exposing the whole military mentality infecting the population but they were in the minority.

I am thoroughly disillusioned with the women of America who seem to be as brain washed as their male counterparts and wonder if all the newly elected Congresswomen are going to really bring about hoped for change. This may seem off topic to Karen's current columns, but it is another area of ignorance and truth distortion regarding the larger picture. Mention of the fact that they may be encouraging more women to join up to make up for the lack of enough male soldiers available may be the real propelling reason for this 'progressive' turn of events.

All this despite the horrendous reports of the high rates of sexual attacks on women in the military which has been largely sidestepped.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Yes, big bankers are the ones who screwed us, are screwing us, and will forever screw us. But have you noticed that just about all the guys running interference for the bankers are LAWYERS?

Notably, Lanny Breuer was celebrated this week for his lawyerly services on behalf of Wall Street bankers. There are many other lawyers of his ilk whose names you are familiar with. As some commenters have noted, it's gotten so that we reflexively lunge for the remote now when certain lawyers pop up on the telly.

I note how it makes you folks so depressed. So how about a time out for a lawyer joke?

A-hu-hum ...

"The National Institutes of Health have announced that they will no longer be using rats for medical experimentation. In their place, they will use attorneys. They have given three reasons for this decision:
1. There are now more attorneys than there are rats.
2. The medical researchers don't become as emotionally attached to the attorneys as they did to the rats.
3. No matter how hard you try, there are some things that rats won't do."

John in Lafayette said...

Pearl:There's a fellow who comments regularly at the NYT who I admire and goes by the name of Gemli, and his response to that Collins column was quite good. I don't think he'd mind my re-posting it here:

"I'm so repulsed by the waste of life, by the maimed soldiers, by the suicides of returning veterans who didn't realize that killing human beings might take a toll on their sanity, by the antiseptic, remotely controlled drone strikes, and by the disgusting euphemism of collateral damage, that I'm finding it hard to feel the way this column is supposed to make me feel. Hooray for Women doesn't seem appropriate. Funneling more people into the bottomless, grinding maw of war seems like something we'd do as a last resort, when hope is gone and all is lost, not something to be celebrated as a job opportunity. Will we feel that progress is being made when more women are killed by enemy fire than are raped by a fellow soldier? I'm sorry if I don't get it, but I think men and women's lives have a point, and the Bush wars don't. There's too much loss involved to be enthused about what women have gained."

Denis Neville said...

Jay said… “big bankers are the ones who screwed us, are screwing us, and will forever screw us” and “all the guys running interference for the bankers are LAWYERS”

I recently read a recent study, where the government researchers administered weekly doses of Viagra to an equal number of doctors and lawyers. Study results showed that while most of the doctors achieved enhanced sexual prowess, the lawyers simply grew taller. Researchers are at a loss to explain the results.

Denis Neville said...

@ John…

Thanks for sharing that powerful post by Gemli.

According to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, “The US has already borrowed $2 trillion to finance the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The true cost of the war is only just beginning. Indeed, the costs after withdrawal may exceed those during the war. Choices made in the past decade mean high costs for years to come. The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receiving government medical care has grown to more than 800,000, and most have applied for permanent disability benefits. But the number of claims keeps climbing.”

There is talk in Congress about cutting veterans’ Tricare healthcare benefits, along with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to lower the deficit they created by not funding those two wars. Send men and women to war, then cut their benefits and throw that money into the fire pit so the banksters can burn still more money!

It’s a great system, giving piles of free money to people who like to set those piles on fire.

During the Vietnam War, while stationed for a short time at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, I watched medevac transports bringing burn victims from the war to the Burn Unit at Brooks Army Medical Center. That image still haunts me as I recall a high school classmate of mine who died of burns in Vietnam.

I have always been struck by how casually we as a nation react to the carnage of war.

Chris Hedges writes:

“If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be impossible to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan and listen to the wails of their parents, we would not be able to repeat clich├ęs we use to justify war. This is why war is carefully sanitized. This is why we are given war's perverse and dark thrill but are spared from seeing war's consequences. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic and entertaining…

“The wounded, the crippled, and the dead are, in this great charade, swiftly carted offstage. They are war's refuse. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they tell is too painful for us to hear. We prefer to celebrate ourselves and our nation by imbibing the myths of glory, honor, patriotism, and heroism, words that in combat become empty and meaningless.” - Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class

James F Traynor said...

And have you seen the latest in the Republican judges role in muzzling the watch dogs?

Pearl said...

Thanks for the input about my comment regarding the new women in combat rulings. I came across the following interesting article>

Subject: Feminists for Peace
Lucinda Marshall: Why Serving In Combat Does Not Serve Women (Or Anyone Else) Well
>> [

Pearl said...

Addition to my comment:

I am happy to see that Gemli's comment to Collins' column came in 8th in the over all ratings with 153 recommendations and I appreciate your printing it John as I had missed it. And Denis as always, thank you for superb quotes from intelligent
and caring humans as yourself.