Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?

Matt Taibbi writes:

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

“Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,” he said. “That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.”

I put down my notebook. “Just that?”

“That’s right,” he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. “Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.”

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

The rest of them, all of them, got off. Not a single executive who ran the companies that cooked up and cashed in on the phony financial boom — an industrywide scam that involved the mass sale of mismarked, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities — has ever been convicted. Their names by now are familiar to even the most casual Middle American news consumer: companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. What’s more, many of these companies had corporate chieftains whose actions cost investors billions — from AIG derivatives chief Joe Cassano, who assured investors they would not lose even “one dollar” just months before his unit imploded, to the $263 million in compensation that former Lehman chief Dick “The Gorilla” Fuld conveniently failed to disclose. Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars.

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7 thoughts on “Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?

  1. delia ruhe

    Well, yes, there are those criminals. Then there are Bush, Cheney, and several other criminals in the Bush regime, plus the lawyers who “legalized” their criminality for them. And what about those who now legislate against constitutionally protected rights, such as reproductive freedom and collective bargaining? Now, Gingrich the Neut wants to impeach Obama, not for letting all those criminals escape justice and pursuing Julian Assange instead, but rather for withdrawing support for DOMA. This is beyond even Jon Stewart material.

    The days of secretly praying for a soft landing for our American cousins are, I think, passed.

  2. blowback

    I say let them get on with hollowing out the US, the sooner they do, the better for the rest of the World.

  3. Steve

    If you want to see a great documentary about this check out “Inside Job” narrated by Matt Damon.

    As it quite accurately says the population of the US has a Wall Street owned government.

  4. Christopher Hoare

    The neo-liberalism that allows — no, encourages — these excesses has been the worst disaster to be inflicted on the planet in human history. Previous abominations, such as feudalism, have not had the global reach of the rapacious corporations and their actions that are fouling everyone’s environment.

    The shibboleths of ‘development’ and ‘growth’ are not only evil but they are illogical. The Earth has finite resources, space, and environmental stability, but neo-liberals act as if they can wave a magic wand to discount these facts. The problem with neo-liberalism is much less than ‘greed’ — even its most conservative expressions of belief are not sustainable. It must be destroyed, or we will.

  5. Norman

    At the end of WWII, my father told a story that has stuck in my mind all these years: 4 thousand years ago, Moses told the Israelite’s in Egypt, mount thyn Camel, mount thyn Ass, I will lead you to the promised land. 4 thousand years later, Harry Truman said to the people of the U.S., light up a Camel, sit on your Ass, this is the promised land.

    What has that to do with the present system in Washington D.C., just that, the American people have sat on the Asses since that saying and allowed the Government to turn into a corruptible mess that we have today. The Government used to employ real men & women that took pride in doing their job. Today, the Government is run by a bunch of used car salesmen, flim flam men, women who kow-tow to the party line, all the while wearing those little American flags that are made in China, promoting rhetorical speak of I’m for you on one hand, while with the other taking payoffs from the special interests. Just like Judas, they sell their souls for measly amounts, convinced that they have done good for the population. The only thing they have done, is hasten the slide down the toilet into the sewer of despair for the majority.

  6. Frigga Karl

    It is up to us now, the people, to do the right thing, as we witness in the arabian countries, and as we know from the past, to chase the criminals out of power. Why not taking example from the chinese cultural revolution: publicly humiliate the criminals in power and expose them with their crimes written on a poster on their breast. I would very much like to see the criminals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Wolfowitz, Pearle etc (in the USA) and Belusconi, Sarkosy, Blair, Aznar, etc… (for the EU) and Livni, Barak, Nethanyahu, (even Sharon who still did not die) etc.. for Israel, in that precise position. There are quite a lot of criminals conspiracing against the people. If we will not stop those worldwide conspiracies against us, the criminals will proliferate and infect all levels of the pyramid from top to down.

  7. dickerson3870

    RE: “If you want to see a great documentary about this check out ‘Inside Job’”… – Steve
    Inside Job, 2010, PG-13, 108 minutes
    From filmmaker Charles Ferguson comes this sobering, Oscar-nominated documentary that presents in comprehensive yet cogent detail the pervasive and deep-rooted corruption that led to the global economic meltdown of 2008. Through unflinching interviews with key financial insiders, politicos, journalists and academics, Ferguson paints a galling portrait of an unfettered financial system run amok — without accountability. Actor Matt Damon narrates.
    Format: DVD and Blu-ray available 3/8/2011
    NETFLIX LISTING – http://movies.netflix.com/Movie/Inside_Job/70139555?trkid=496624

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