Why Aren’t Big Bankers in Jail?

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21008-why-arent-big-bankers-in-jail

By Janine Jackson, FAIR Blog
Saturday, 04 January 2014

The man in charge of a bank that engaged in massive mortgage fraud chatted with a corporate media host (CNBC Squawk on the Street, 7/12/13) about the fact that virtually none of those who enriched themselves while eviscerating the life savings of many blameless people, derailing the US economy along the way, have faced criminal prosecution:

Jim Cramer: Shouldn’t they have indicted somebody who actually did bad things in banking?

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon: I think if someone did something wrong, they should go to jail.

Cramer: Well, who did? Who went to jail?

Dimon: One of the great things about America, failure is not illegal or wrong. You can’t just say it failed. But I do think America looked at the crisis—and this is too bad—and there was no, anywhere, Old Testament justice. What they saw is people got overpaid—and some of these people lost all their money, their reputation, all that. If someone did something wrong, they should pay. You’ve got to be specific. Did they do something wrong, or you just don’t like the fact that they failed? You make investments. They don’t always pay off. It doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.

Cramer: Right.

Granted, Cramer is no one’s idea of a serious interrogator of the financial system (FAIR Blog3/13/09). But much journalism on the question of criminal prosecution of industry leaders amounts to similar apologia.

While there have been substantive inquiries into the wrongdoing of investment banks and auditors, those calling for jail time are often dismissed as irrational, driven by “blood lust” (Washington Post, 9/12/13), “anger” (Chicago Tribune, 11/30/13) or “vengeance” (Washington Post, 11/18/13).

We’re told such calls come from the margins: That no “financial industry types” have been jailed is “a recurring theme among Occupy Wall Street protesters and some Democratic politicians” (Christian Science Monitor, 10/11/11) or “the Occupy Wall Street crowd” (New York Times, 3/1/13).

People who believe bankers should go to jail are deflecting blame—from the people: “The real scandal,” explained the Washington Post‘s Charles Lane (“Banks Aren’t the Bad Guys,” 11/18/13), was “Americans’ shared, erroneous belief in ever-rising housing prices and corresponding mania to profit from them.”

And maybe they need to move on: “This all happened a really long time ago. What-ever happened to the statute of limitations?” the Washington Post (11/19/13) asked itself in a recent Q&A.

Above all, to advocate prosecution is to be simple-minded, to believe that “public revulsion indicates likely culpability” (Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/12/11) and to “reduce complex historical processes to the machinations of an evil few” (Washington Post, 11/18/13).

Wiser heads must prevail. “The meltdown was multi-causal,” concluded Businessweek‘s Roger Lowenstein. “That explanation will be unsatisfying to armchair prosecutors, but it has the virtue of answering the complex nature of the bubble.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21008-why-arent-big-bankers-in-jail

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