White-Collar Criminals Got Off Scot-Free After the 2008 Financial Crisis — and That Helped Fuel President Trump’s Rise

By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and Research Associate at the Levy Institute. Originally published at

In the aftermath of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, bank officials at HSBC admitted to the Department of Justice that the bank violated the Bank Secrecy Act, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act. This amounted to one of the largest and most destructive money laundering and anti-terror finance sanctions-busting in history. Fines were leveled, but no senior bankers went to jail. In another investigation, in a bid-rigging cartel that illegally manipulated LIBOR, the most important global benchmark interest rate. Professor Bill Black the “dollar amount of deals affected by the collusion range[s] from $300-550 trillion in deals manipulated at any given time.” It was a scandal that may have been history’s largest financial crime, yet the U.S. Department of Justice refused to prosecute any of the elite bank officers involved.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 2008 crash, ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger that no top bankers were ever “held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression… No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.” All of these instances of corporate corruption occurred well before Trump’s election. . But how do you make a political case for the latter’s impeachment on the grounds of corporate corruption (even as the president virtually daily violates the Constitution’s ), given the earlier reticence of multitudes of politicians, regulators, and DOJ officials to prosecute similar white-collar crimes whose impact dwarfed those allegedly committed by America’s 45th president?

It says something about the way we have () as a society gotten very soft on criminal deviancy that the practices alleged to have been perpetrated by Trump not only in the 2016 election,, no longer appear to be disqualifications for the office of the presidency, let alone grounds for impeachment. The previous Obama administration’s embrace of the concept that the (SDIs), particularly the largest banks, whose senior officials were “too big to jail,” meant that the bankers who grew wealthy from leading the largest and most destructive fraud schemes in banking history got off scot-free. And they also created a context in which the business practices of a candidate like Donald Trump were normalized to a degree that they were considered an insufficient bar to block him from the presidency.

These facts are worth recalling in the context of the recent convictions of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on charges related to bank and tax fraud, and the guilty plea by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who directly implicated the president in campaign finance law violations. As sordid as their actions were, they are small beer compared to what took place in the decade, in which a whole industry literally succumbed to an epidemic of fraud, money laundering, and other forms of malfeasance.

Of course, one shouldn’t ignore the role of the GOP in terms of fomenting this degradation of the rule of law (clearly George W. Bush’s gutting of the SEC, his refusal to devote more fiscal resources to the hiring of additional FBI field officers to investigate financial fraud, and his appointments of Goldman Sachs’ Hank Paulson and his AG, Alberto Gonzalez, all contributed to this “”). However, it is largely the Democratic Party today that is seeking to position itself as a quasi-constitutional brake on this lawless presidency, which, given their minority political status, means using the courts to save the country from a descent into total constitutional anarchy. But the Democratic Party’s ongoing obeisance to its Wall Street donor class via its longstanding embrace of financial deregulation (especially prolific during the tenure of Robert Rubin as Treasury Secretary in the 1990s), and its correspondingly supine response to the consequences of said deregulation during time of the Obama administration, means that Democrats are poorly placed to mount a credible case for impeachment today on the basis of Trump’s sleazy business practices.

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump cynically exploited people’s anger at the widespread sense of a judicial system heavily tilted against the average American, as well as highlighting the unsavory alliance between the “swamp” in Washington, D.C., and Wall Street, all while reminding voters of the Democrats’ role in the financial deregulation that helped to destroy the global economy years later. Sincere or not, contrast this to President Obama’s breezy comments on the money awarded to the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs respectively, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Although Obama initially condemned the “obscene” bonuses of Wall Street “fat cats,” :

“I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”

The American people generally don’t “begrudge people success or wealth” if it is achieved honestly. What Obama failed to acknowledge is that the electorate was revolted when such wealth was accumulated on the back of pervasive fraud and government bailouts, or experienced a sense of things being rigged against them in their own economic lives. It is important to recall this context as we ponder the miasma of prosecutions, indictments and guilty pleas that have emerged from special independent prosecutor Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigations of the Trump administration. In aggregate, the indictments and guilty pleas have added to the overall picture that Mr. Mueller has been investigating an organized crime syndicate (albeit one as if Fredo was the only Corleone brother to survive and ended up running the show), as opposed to the administration of the so-called leader of the western world.

But have these convictions given renewed momentum toward removing Trump via impeachment? They seem to reflect business as usual in relation to the pervasive corruption that was uncovered in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, a profoundly inconvenient fact for those who persist in the delusion that America’s institutional framework and its alleged attachment to the rule of law could prevent the descent of this country into a kind of fascist authoritarianism. The Obama presidency is now viewed fondly through the prism of the nightmare that is Trump. But what did the 44th president (or his treasury secretary, or attorney general) do when confronted with the epidemic of fraud and malfeasance that gave us the nightmare of 2008? Basically nothing. Bankers were given a “get out jail free” card. Indeed, given the persistent tolerance of the crimes of wealthy CEOs, it’s hard to believe that Paul Manafort would be the object of a criminal investigation today if he had stayed out of the 2016 presidential campaign, let alone Donald Trump.

As Eisinger , the DOJ “occasionally brings charges against lower-level executives of major corporations, but hasn’t held the chief of a Fortune 500 company accountable in more than a decade,” which foamed the runway for the current occupant of the White House. In truth, such has been the degradation in the rule of law in this United States, that even now it is questionable whether white-collar crime per se constitutes a legitimate threshold to conduct impeachment proceedings. HSBC confessed to money laundering for Mexican drug cartels, and evading sanctions directed against Iran. Fines were issued (equivalent to a few quarters’ profit), but that’s it. No jail time. The GOP will no doubt shamelessly remind the Democrats of these inconvenient facts if the latter seeks to impeach Trump on that basis.

Any American who has recited the words of the Pledge of Allegiance knows that the rule of law is inextricably tied to the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.” There mustn’t be a two-tiered system: one for the wealthy, and one for the rest of us. The guilty plea of Michael Cohen was announced with great fanfare by Robert Khuzami, the current Deputy U.S. Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He that Cohen’s conviction “serves as a reminder that we are a nation of laws, with one set of rules that applies equally to everyone.”

If Khuzami’s name rings a bell for some, it is because he was once the General Counsel for the Americas for Deutsche Bank from 2004 to 2009, and then went to the SEC as head of enforcement. In the latter position, Khuzami’s intense conflicts of interest from his previous role at DB guaranteed there would be no serious investigation of collateralized debt obligation (CDO) abuses. Indeed, his career exemplifies the revolving door culture that has characterized the , which makes one prone to regulatory capture, and correspondingly lax when it came to prosecuting the very rule of law that Khuzami himself trumpeted in the wake of the Cohen convictions. There is a balancing act for people like Khuzami, needing () “to display their dazzling smarts but also eventually needing to appear like reasonable people and avoid being depicted by the white-collar bar as cowboys unworthy of a prestigious partnership.” Even though, as Yves Smith of the economics blog Cfdtrade noted, Deutsche Bank was patient zero of CDOs designed to fail for the benefit of subprime shorts, under Khuzami’s tenure at the SEC, the German bank attracted virtually no scrutiny. This, despite the fact that DB’s leading salesman of this toxic junk, Greg Lippmann, figures prominently in all reasonably researched accounts of pre-crisis CDOs. So much for the idea that “one set of rules… applies equally to everyone.”

The Democrats’ largely absentee approach to the problem of white-collar crime could well explain why the party and the special independent prosecutor continue their efforts to make the case for “Russian collusion.” The theory being that conspiracy with a foreign power to influence an election will create a sufficient threshold to attain the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard needed to secure impeachment.

Treason is also sexier than white-collar crime and, in theory, easier to prosecute. But it’s still not a slam dunk. We’re now 18 months into Mueller, and the polls still suggest that the Democrats have not gained sufficient political traction with this issue beyond their base. No smoking gun has yet emerged, or least insufficient evidence to encourage Republicans to abandon their president. Hence, calling for impeachment remains a risky strategy if Mueller fails to deliver the goods, as it will appear to many voters that the Democrats are using the courts to overturn an election result (much as Democrats used to allege during the GOP/Ken Starr-led impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton). But, it’s also hard to make an impeachment case on the basis of white-collar offenses, given the Democratic Party’s historic accommodation of Wall Street criminality.

And until the Democrats come face-to-face with their legacy—their complicity in failing to bring about “change you can believe in” in the aftermath of 2008—it will be harder for them to argue for Trump’s removal on that basis, at least to the degree that is required to secure bipartisan support. A promised “return to normality” isn’t enough, given what “normality” gave us 10 years ago. Democrats can’t enable arsonists, and then complain when the fire spins out of control. But that’s exactly the situation in which we find ourselves today with our modern-day Nero tweeting as Washington, D.C., continues to burn

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74 comments

  1. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Cannot thank Yves, Lambert, and all the gang at NC for your steadfast highlights of the REAL reason Trump ascended and the ghastly hypocrisy of the Democratic crime enablers.

    No need to post this, just want to express my appreciation.

    1. Larry

      It’s mentioned in the article, but not given much consideration that Trump actually acknowledged reality. That was rather stunning coming from any politician at the national stage, but especially from a Republican. This is what made Hillary’s candidacy doubly damaging. She represents everything Trump proclaimed to rail against, and worse yet, he had the pictures and receipts to prove that Hillary was just another politician to be bought and sold. I was shocked at how shrewd Trump was in this regard. Any close observer also knew he wouldn’t conduct himself in any beneficial way once elected, but how is that different from any other president of recent memory? I seem to remember Obama saying his election was going to halt the seas from rising.

    2. readerOfTeaLeaves

      I couldn’t have said it better.
      With a very sad heart, I honestly believe that this post — like Jesse Eisinger’s article at Pro Publica — is absolutely, tragically, brilliant.

  2. Desai

    Good article. Though I am surprised that it does not mention role of Lanny Bruer in letting wall street go jail free. The following two documentaries by John Titus shows an in-depth saga of how DoJ let wall street go jail free for crimes (including HSBC scandal mentioned in article) :-

    1.)Veneer of Justice in a Kingdom Crime:-

    This one focuses on role of DoJ.

    2.)All Plenary’s men :-

    This one focuses British regulator’s interference in proceedings of US DoJ and provides very strong evidence about an international agreement for letting bank executive jail free under supervision of Bank of International Settlement . This is definitely a must watch for any NC reader.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      I hope you were not surprised by my former employer. Some of its senior leaders and shareholders are well connected. Two former leaders have become Tory ministers this decade. Descendants of the founding shareholders are related to the royal family (by way of the Queen Mother) and, this month, are shooting grouse and deer on their moors in Scotland and the north of England with their royal and other aristocratic cousins.

      One of the ministers is an Anglican clergyman. The other was deputy chairwoman of the BBC. The chairwoman’s husband runs the company that had the contract to maintain the Grenfell and other towers.

      The UK regulator interfering in US judicial matters wants to become governor of the Bank of England. Having lost his patron, George Osborne, in 2016 he has worked his way back to favouritism.

      One wonders when the British public will “take back control” as was the plan with or one motivation for voting for Brexit.

    2. Marshall Auerback

      Desai, the reality is that I was spoiled for choice and could have mentioned much more. In retrospect, I wish I had been more specific about Breuer’s comments, although I think the “too big to jail” notion is very much a product of his warped thinking.

    3. Lambert Strether

      I periodically run this brilliant parody, except not, of Lanny Breuer (removed from YT, oddly, and then reinstated):

      I’m going to listen to it again, it’s so great. “Look at my suit.”

  3. skippy

    When your at War [endless] with everyone…. the law gets a wee bit subjective…. its about priorities and not spirit of thingy….

  4. fresno dan

    JPMorgan has amassed an incredible $2.56 trillion in assets. That’s nearly twice as much as at the end of 2006 when the subprime mortgage bubble was beginning to burst. A chunk of JPMorgan’s growth is due to its government-backed rescues of failing Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.
    =================================================
    Its like the cops not only don’t arrest someone who is drunk who has plowed into a school bus, but they take him to a bar and give him boilermakers, paid for by the taxpayers. Astounding

    1. Louis Fyne

      rank the top 10 US banks by assets. Break them all up so that each remnant is no larger than #11 (w/a asset tax surcharge, whatever).

      Just that by itself will go a long way to rein in Wall Street. Oh wait, Chuck Schumer’s from NY. And everyone on TV is finding Russians under their sofa cushions

      1. Arizona Slim

        And here I am, sitting on the sofa, thinking about what I am learning in my current Russian language lesson.

    2. crittermom

      fresno dan:
      “It’s like the cops not only don’t arrest someone who is drunk who has plowed into a school bus, but they take him to a bar and give him boilermakers, paid for by the taxpayers.”

      I agree with Teejay in that it’s a great analogy.

      I would add, however, that the cops then take the bar from the owner & give it to the drunk, as well.

      After all, he needed the money from selling it to replace the car he wrecked, since there was now a vacant space among the other 3 dozen classics in his garage.

  5. perpetualWAR

    This article is precisely why I refuse to say the Pledge of Alliegence or stand and sing the National Anthem. I was conducting the NFL protest before it was a thing.

    You see, even when homeowners took their grievances to the judicial branch, we still faced a government for the 1%. Providing the judiciary with evidence of massive unlawful activities, even with one mortgage, they still ruled for the banks nearly every time.

    I refuse to respect this nation until “justice for all” really means something.

    1. Wukchumni

      The best move one can make is the completely distance yourself from Wall*Street machinations, and it’s not that difficult if you forswear owning stocks or allowing your wealth to be in their hands in any other fashion.

    2. crittermom

      perpetualWAR:

      “You see, even when homeowners took their grievances to the judicial branch, we still faced a government for the 1%.”

      Yes. Exactly!
      Every rung of the ladder is rotten & broken, from the bottom to the top rung. We victims were left in a heap at the bottom, the result of our fruitless efforts in a judicial system that no longer represents the majority.

      I want my country back.

        1. William Peterson

          I have offered to complete designs for, and build, a working guillotine/s, which would be oh so much more dramatic than lamp posts (to be sold for theatrical purposes only, but of course I have no control over what use a purchaser may ultimately put it to). If I were independently wealthy I’d give’em away for free, but I’m not. I’m one of the aforementioned victims, still involved in litigation, and that for almost 11 years.

      1. Ginavon

        Wait till you see what happens in the next crash…long overdue…no bail outs just bail-in to your personal bank accounts thanks to the small print in DODD FRANK

    3. Arizona Slim

      Here’s how I say the Pledge of Allegiance:

      Mumble
      Mumble
      More mumbling. And then …

      … And JUSTICE FOR ALL!

    4. fresno dan

      perpetualWAR
      August 28, 2018 at 9:14 am

      You are a billion trillion TRILLONS upon TRILLIONS percent correct

    5. Prairie Bear

      I refuse even to go to events/places where they are being said/sung. So I personally don’t even get the opportunity to not say/sing them.

  6. Watt4Bob

    And now consider that these criminal degenerates who control our country have been grooming our police for the job of protecting their interests, in anticipation of the inevitable wave of anger their behavior is sure to produce.

    It is clear too, that an astounding amount of this anger has been successfully deflected by the concerted efforts of the guilty, in collusion with the media, by painting the problem as one of masses of undeserving poor dragging down our economy by participation in our country’s overly generous system of ‘entitlements’.

    It is true that our country has been wrecked, its economy, for most of us, stopped, dead in the water.

    It is also true that the cause of that disaster is bad behavior, but it is not the fault of poor people selling loose cigarettes, or failing to promptly obey the police, or expecting to collect their Social Security benefits, and receive healthcare.

    Nonetheless, a great many people believe exactly that, that all our problems are rooted in the behavior of the poor and powerless, as opposed to the wide-spread criminality of the folks at the top.

    Trump, as has been pointed out, is the inevitable outcome, applauding ‘his base‘ for their incredible ability to believe lies on the one hand, and focus unbending hatred where directed, on the other.

    It is not only their financial crimes that have damaged us, it’s their success in shifting the blame that now threatens to leave our social fabric irreparably torn.

    Yes, Trump may be the one on center stage when the civil war starts, but it was Obama and the democrats who missed the last opportunity to change our course, and thus make this disaster almost certain.

    1. Stan Polak

      Nonetheless, a great many people believe exactly that, that all our problems are rooted in the behavior of the poor and powerless, as opposed to the wide-spread criminality of the folks at the top.

      Brilliant!!!!!

  7. Michael C.

    Can’t wait until Rachel Maddow and MSNBC cover this important topic. Oh, wait. It says nothing about Russia. I may have to wait afterall.

  8. Wukchumni

    Most any casino is more circumspect with their employees, than Wall*Street is.

    Of course, they’re on the lookout for the staff cheating on them, whereas that behavior is a given in lower Manhattan.

    When the arbitragers were paid off on losing wagers by the pit bosses, it only emphasized that everybody could indeed, get away with anything.

  9. RUKidding

    Well said! All of it. It’s just so… so… discouraging.

    While I had a moment of some, uh, satisfaction, I guess, over the Manafort and Cohen situation, I was also thinking: but really? Aren’t they “small beer”? And what about all the other predations that happened leading up to 2008? And these two white collar criminals are what we’re maniacally “celebrating” for getting caught with their hands in rather small cookie jars – in comparison to some of the other plundering and pillaging that occurred?

    Expecting Big D to somehow find their white chargers and come galloping in for our rescue is beyond magical thinking and lands in the territory of functional insanity. Both Big D and Big R collude behind the scenes with their various sugar daddies to make sure the populace is screwed good ‘n proper, all while pitting us hapless proles against one another. Fabulous distraction. Works like a charm.

    It’s why the .001% is, no doubt, totally satisfied with Trump for resoundingly pitting his fanatical cult members against anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly 110% agree with their Nazi ways.

    We are so screwed because I really don’t see where this leads. I’ve never been in favor of Impeachment for Trump because, frankly, that way lies madness on so many levels. Plus Trump has cleverly whipped up his heavily armed Cult fanatics into a frenzy of opposition to Impeachment no matter what Trump does. So fahgedaboud that, which, I’m sure, Big D is quite happy with. They really don’t want to Impeach anyone, including noted War Criminals W Bush & Co. But why would they since they have their own War Criminals to protect, including Barry Bamz O’bomanation. And so forth.

    Ugh. What a mess.

    Thanks for a great post that sums things up very nicely. Good comments so far.

    Unsure where we go from here. Good luck to us all.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Trump did break rice bowls. One of the Podesta emails indicated HRC was promising the VP spot to everyone long after she had settled on Kaine. What promises of employment were made that went poof one night in November?

      The Clinton Foundation served as an employment operation for Clinton loyalists over the years until the campaign started, but where do they go now? They needed the Clintons to pay them. Now they don’t have access to power or potential power.

      What Cabinet roles were promised to Congressmen and so forth? Similar to the rise and fall of Karl Rove, the GOP strategerists and politicians demonstrated an addled used car salesman could beat the brains of every foppish GOP strategist with Democratic friends. Trump demonstrated they aren’t worth a cent. In larger blue states, a Cabinet seat might be the ticket to statewide office for the do nothing crop of Democrats we have as they aren’t going to work at a legislative record.

      Now all these people will be forever linked to losing to Trump, clearly a clown. These people bring no celebrity appeal of their own, so like Branson trying to stay young and cool by keeping Obama around, Robbie Mook can’t make that sale. At this point, the 0.001% could care less. They just want people who will keep them in power or are perceived to serve their brand.

      1. Ginavon

        There are only two ways Trump could have won the election
        1. DIVINE INTERVENTION
        2. MILITARY COUP

        EITHER ONE IM ALL IN …..anything was better than horrible HILLARY and donut the same destructive patterns of the last 40 years.

  10. Ashburn

    Good article but I’m surprised that although the author mentions ProPublicas’ Jesse Eisinger he fails to mentions Eisinger’s recent book “The Chickenshit Club.” The title is a reference to federal prosecutors who never lost a case and by implication were afraid to bring cases where they might lose. The book goes on to provide great inside detail on various DOJ and SEC enforcement efforts against some of the biggest corporate white collar crimes and the difficulties of bringing the individuals responsible to justice. While he doesn’t spare criticism of folks like Lanny Breuer he also shows how federal court decisions and DOJ policy decisions have hampered efforts to prosecute individuals.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Just reserved that book at my local library. An institution that’s delightfully free of neoliberalism.

      1. Louis Fyne

        . An institution that’s delightfully free of neoliberalism….

        because of local control, and local oversight by your loveable busy bee neighbor and an “industry” so decentralized it’s difficult for a few players to control or bribe the entire industry.

        maybe the Federalists and classical libertarians were on to something after all.

      2. Carey

        Agreed, public libraries are the bee’s knees. The neolibs, are, however, working
        to destroy them, too.

  11. Phil in KC

    On the other hand, the failure to prosecute C-level exec will probably doom Holder’s quest for the the Democratic nomination in 2020, so not all bad!

    1. Arizona Slim

      Methinks that it also will doom “Credit Card Joe” Biden’s chances. Especially amongst the younger set, who are struggling with massive student loan debt.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Those two are particularly loathsome, but given Sanders’ relative successes despite not being from a media capital and part of a party over the years, the lack of action during the Obama years will be damning when people ask what have you done, where were you, and so forth.

        Obama ran on nothingness, but we are almost two years past his rise in that cycle with no HRC juggernaut on the ballot. She was basically an incumbent.

      2. Octopii

        Nobody knows or cares about the crap Joe has done. I put a nastygram about him up in the WaPo comments and got hate messages… they called me Boris and silly stuff like that.

  12. PKMKII

    My cynical take is that Mueller isn’t really trying to build an impeachment case, and the Democrats certainly don’t care about the fundamental crimes alleged, or even impeachment itself. The latter wants to build an artificial sense of separation from Trump, as there’s nothing but superficial differences economically. The former just wants enough pelts on the wall in order to secure a cabinet spot in the next Democratic presidency.

    1. RMO

      A president who made dead letters of parts of the constitution and bill of rights, tortured people to death and lied to the nation in order to commit “the supreme war crime” wasn’t impeached. Only little people face punishment at the hands of the U.S. “justice” system. In the next year or so we’ll find out how big or little Trump really is in the eyes of the DC establishment. If impeachment actually happens it’ll probably work out even worse for the Democrats than the impeachment campaign against Clinton worked out for the Republicans anyways.

  13. JEHR

    It seems to me that things will be getting much worse before they get better. I will not live to see it.

    1. Hepativore

      Neither will I, and I was born in the mid-1980s.

      Reganomics was in full-swing when I was born and every election cycle, our presidential administrations keep reviving its long-failed policies and supply-side neologisms without fail. Even if the beast of neoliberalism is eventually slain, it will take decades to clean up its decaying corpse.

      1. Newton Finn

        Had I been born in the 1980s, I would feel the same way. But I was born in 1948, was in college in the late 60s, and saw history turn on a dime…when no one was expecting it. When the young get bold and confident and come together, the existential freedom unleashed is like a tidal wave. I pray I live long enough to be swept up in it again.

        1. pretzelattack

          well the vietnam war and the draft drove that, and civil rights. the draft and, eventually, the war ended, and people were appeased with the end of de jure segregation and the civil rights act, and increasing opportunities for a time.

          1. Newton Finn

            The circumstances you cite are the historical context of the late 60s/early 70s renaissance. But for those of us who lived through this sudden sea change that liberated consciousness–and, believe me, it was as sudden as it was exhilarating–these contextual circumstances don’t begin to fully explain it. There are history-shaping forces in our midst, unknown and likely unknowable, which assert themselves and manifest when they will. Neoliberalism, being the futile effort to suppress the irrepressible human spirit, will crumble like all former systems of oppression…maybe sooner than any of us anticipate.

  14. Wukchumni

    {pulls on Reynolds Wrap touque…}

    One thing about committing a major crime and getting away with it, is it empowers you to do similar things.

    Nobody hardly has any access to the vaults under Manhattan that possesses all that glitters in the guise of 400 oz bars, and it wouldn’t take all that much effort to replace the real deal with gilt tungsten ones, who would be the wiser?

    Wolfram is the perfect host in that it has a very similar specific gravity, in that the density of both metals is nearly the same.

    You can buy gold-plated tungsten 1 oz Eagle coins from Alibaba for the princely sum of $105, one of 456 different gold-plated tungsten items they offer.

    1. Prairie Bear

      That vault used to be on a tour you could take of the NY Fed. I went once. You could stand within a foot of the gold. They were on the other side of bars, of course. I’m sure I couldn’t have told by looking if they were gold-plated tungsten even then. I don’t know if they allow tours in there anymore. This was before 911.

      1. Wukchumni

        Usually revelation of fraud is bad for anything financial, but I suspect it’ll have just the opposite effect when push>meets<shove.

  15. BenX

    Thanks for this – the Democratic party is deaf, dumb, and blind to the contempt the public has over the response to the rampant fraud of the early 2000s. The US government violated the social compact by not only failing to prosecute any of the criminals at the major financial institutions but generously rewarded them. The anger over the negligence found an outlet in white nationalism, not just in the US, but throughout the West. I attribute much of the current social divide to the propping up of the failed, fraudulent banks and coddling of the criminals. We would have been better off nationalizing the banks, as so many at the time recommended, jailing the criminals in charge, and facing the consequences. Instead, we papered over the problem with trillions of dollars and set a precedent that institutionalized fraud within our financial system. When it fails again, as all frauds do, it will be bailed out again with the sweat and property of the little people – what could be more treasonous than that?

    1. Prairie Bear

      The anger over the negligence found an outlet in white nationalism, not just in the US, but throughout the West.

      Yes, and the massive ME migrations to Europe caused by the US destruction of Libya, Syria, etc., threw gasoline on that fire.

  16. KPL

    “no top bankers were ever “held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression… No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.”

    Not only that, they were bailed out with tax-payer’s money and the Fed. The Fed did the following:

    1. Printed acronym money and distributed it to the rascals (that is being polite mind you!)
    2. Put savers, retirees and prudent people under the bus
    3. Had the gall (or shall we call it the ‘courage to act’) to take charge and print money like there is no tomorrow and buy up anything and everything
    4. Had the temerity to tell us that they were not responsible for the crisis and claim the credit for solving it.
    5. Did not even see the crisis coming (“house prices never fall’ etc.)
    6. Had the gall to tell us but for them it would have been worse. Even if it had been, we would have still liked to see the bankers and rating agents sent to jail, licenses of the rating agencies, banks suspended or revoked, and the entire team at the Fed sacked. Instead the Fed got medals and the bankers got bonus while savers, retirees, prudent people were skinned. If this does not make your blood boil nothing will.

    If you think the bankers should go to jail, we can also ask the question why no one from the Fed has been held responsible, sacked and more. Why the Fed has not been held responsible for the mess they have created is a question which not only needs to be asked but answered too.

    While on that why not jail the credit rating agencies who rated dogS*** wrapped in chocolate wrapper as AAA?

    We could also ask who gave the politicians the right to use tax-payers money as they please. It is supposed to be used for improving the the tax-payers life not to bail out banks and corporate.

    If crime is not punished it emboldens the criminals and if people are held not responsible for their actions, they can carry on the same vein with the same disastrous results. Is there any reason to believe otherwise? The end result would be a decadent society with criminals and persons who are not accountable ruling the roost.

    One can only wonder how it will all end.

  17. Barry Hubbard

    Since it has been ten years the financial collapse created by our financial firms, it is doubtful if any manager or employee of these firms will see the inside of a prison given our legal system. But we are in the midst of a opioid epidemic created by domestic pharmaceutical firms and their managers and owners. During 2016 115 Americans died of opioid prescription drugs manufactured and sold by firms such as McKesson and Perdue every day, and 40%of the drug overdose deaths during that same year were caused by opioid drugs. These manufacturers knew they were killing people while they were enriching themselves and their stockholders. Municipalities, counties and cities are suing the manufacturers because of the enormous expense of treating people who took the opioid pills. The FDA knew about the epidemic, and apparently did nothing to stop it. My question is: should not the responsible individuals at the FDA and at the pharmaceutical companies be held to account for the deaths and treatment costs with criminal prosecution by the Federal government? Let us not wait ten years for justice

    1. Wukchumni

      As many people killed by both guns and cars together in a year, die from opioids. That’s a tragedy of epic proportions and nobody really cares all that much.

      Ask your doctor if apathy is right for you?

  18. wilroncanada

    I think Watt4Bob at 9:35AM had the best summary of the whole mess and the unfortunate portent of the future dystopia which will likely result. Years of accumulative corruption by powerful individuals and the keptocratic organizations they set up, abetted by bought politicians in corrupt political systems creating new legal frameworks to steal the middling wealth of the middle classes and utterly destroy the lives of the poor, disabled and sick.
    A future of mercenary military policing and detention to be the major “pacification” programs for those small numbers of citizens who have not become overcome with ennui and fear through ongoing propaganda.

  19. Anthony K Wikrent

    All excellent stuff, but there is one glaring omission: no mention of organized crime. HSBC being involved with narcotics gangs is not a bug, but a feature; indeed, not a current outrage, but a .

    In USA, the Democratic Party’s connections with organized crime are typified by Obama Commerce Secretary : the family fortune was based on granddaddy Pritzker’s role as tax attorney for the Chicago mob, beginning with Al Capone.

    As for the Republican Party, Gus Russo reported in his 2006 book Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America’s Hidden Power Brokers, that mobsters’ favorite politico beginning in the 1960s was a former president of the Screen Actors Guild named Ronald Reagan.

    Was it a coincidence that during Reagan’s regime as USA prez, massive financial regulation, the complete cessation of anti-trust enforcement, and the financing of right-wing terror squads in other countries by illegal narcotics money, was accompanied by the LBO and mergers & acquisitions booms that focused on industrial companies being bought, and looted and asset stripped? Why has no one every looked at how “the mob going legit” during this period introduced an element of criminality to the thinking of USA corporate management that has come to predominate? Including managements’ thuggish approach to employees, including outright wage theft?

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Brilliant comment.
      I’d thought it was neoliberalism, the Mob sending their kids off to college to look respectable. I forget the M&A boom and how that was an aspect of ‘the mob going legit’…

      It certainly underscores the aptness of the Lanny Breuer clip Lambert posted. Yikes.

  20. Daniel F.

    Yes, in my experience, many white-collar criminals have “Get out of jail free!” cards, or even better (worse), “Get out of any legal trouble free!” cards. Theft, two years. Armed robbery, five to ten years, assuming no one gets killed. Massive finance fraud, ruining the economy – never ever get to see the prosecutor, get a hefty premium two years later.

    I remember how wages, premiums, and comp. packages in banking were back to pre-crisis levels by 2010, what a terrible state of affairs! Two, three years of tightened belts!
    While murder is pretty horrible, its overall impact (on the common man) pales in comparison to, say, the LIbor Scandal, which was also left to rot off silently. “As of August 2015, UBS trader Tom Hayes was the only person convicted in connection with the Libor scandal. In the UK, six bankers accused over Libor were cleared in early 2016.” Courtesy of Wikipedia.

    I also vaguely remember some cases where at least one element of the defense was along the lines of “Your Honor, please do consider the defendant’s inability to cope with prison.”; obviously, they were all white-collar cases. I can’t recall any details, though.

    P.S. I suspect Bernie Madoff was “just” a fall guy for a bigger fish.

  21. VietnamVet

    Although blissfully ignored by the media; both political parties purposefully paid no attention to their Donors’ financial lawlessness and millions of Americans losing their homes except for Donald Trump. He simply said “Lock Her Up”. He was elected President. The take down of the “White Nationalist” leader by global oligarchs commenced and resulted in the conviction of two of Donald Trump’s fixers; Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. The dumbasses thought they were part of the connected overclass.

    30,000 e-mails were forwarded from the Clinton home server directly to a Chinese front in Northern Virginia. The FBI and DOJ knew it but hid it. The knives are out. A second special counsel is needed. Can Washington DC keep a lid on its corruption?

    1. pretzelattack

      there’s a game of thrones right now, no telling who will end up walking through the streets and shamed.

    2. Tomonthebeach

      Take heart. Remember how Mussolini ended up. Trump even looks like Il Duce at his so-called rallies.

  22. Rod

    If crime is not punished it emboldens the criminals and if people are held not responsible for their actions, they can carry on the same vein with the same disastrous results.

    I see a corrallary with the immigration issue facing our country.

    And–PBS Newshour featuring 4 day Public School weeks as innovation without emphasizing they began as
    State responses to budgetary constraints.

    And how about that coincidence with Robert Khuzami??

  23. TrumpIsObamaLegacy

    If ~ 30,000 saw jail over Savings & Loan then ~ 200,000 should have been jailed from 08 and obviously weren’t.

    How many people did the 200,000 tell not to worry about committing white collar crime ?

    Follow up: think the SEC will do anything about the CEO of Tesla and the fraud he allegedly commits ?

    #TrumpIsObamaLegacy

  24. monday1929

    Just to keep the historical record straight, one of the biggest fish to swim free was Robert Rubin, whose name graces the scraps of paper in your wallet. As described on this site, The Financial Crises Inquiry Commission essentially referred his case for indictment. That never occurred. Read too how Richard Bowen was muzzled and prevented from fully testifying as to the crimes (All Fully Documented) Robert Rubin and other senior Citibank execs committed. Yes, the Robert Rubin paid hundreds of millions by bankrupt Citibank, but who knew not a thing that went on. At least we know that when Robert Rubin’s grandchildren search his name, they will know he was just another low-life criminal.

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