Monday, May 7, 2012

No "get out of jail free" card for Wall Street bankers

If the financial crimes task force President Obama announced in his State of the Union speech doesn't hand down criminal indictments soon, we might never see Wall Street bankers held accountable for causing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
So it is deeply worrying that Congressman Brad Miller, who has been a real advocate for Wall Street accountability, recently said he was told months ago by the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, one of the task force's five co-chairs, not to expect criminal indictments from the task force.1
If we want to see criminal Wall Street bankers behind bars, we must insist that President Obama and the co-chairs of the financial fraud task force do not take criminal prosecutions off the table.
While New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has disputed Congressman Miller's account,2 he is only one of the five co-chairs of the task force. He shares his role with two assistant attorneys general, the head of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States Attorney for Colorado. And none of the other co-chairs has a track record of Wall Street accountability.
In addition, Congressman Miller's comment is only one out of a constellation of worrying data points that show that the Obama administration may not be pursuing criminal prosecutions.
Just last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that crimes did not play a significant role in the financial collapse.3 Secretary Geithner was never, ever an ally in the fight for Wall Street accountability, but similar sentiments have also been expressed by both Attorney General Eric Holder4 and President Obama.5
And when Attorney General Holder recently listed his priorities for the end of the term, Wall Street accountability wasn't even on the list!6
With the task force only staffed with a fraction of the investigators needed to do its job,7 making criminal indictments a low priority would be tantamount to taking them off the table.
We need to speak out now to put this at the top of the agenda.
Tell President Obama and the co-chairs of the financial crimes unit: Don't take criminal indictments off the table.
It's been years since the economic collapse, and maddeningly, statutes of limitations are already running out on many of the crimes that precipitated and exacerbated the financial meltdown.
It is a remarkably sad commentary on the state of our democracy that as a nation, we have decided to prosecute Roger Clemens for lying to Congress about steroid use in baseball but have given torturers and (thus far) Wall Street criminals a free pass.
As the re-election campaign heats up, President Obama is increasingly eager to claim the mantle of Wall Street accountability in order to motivate liberal voters.
We need to continue to be vocal until we see real results. We want, and our country needs the indictment and prosecution of the Wall Street crooks who drove our economy off a cliff. Anything less makes a mockery of the Rule of Law and other fundamental democratic principles, and sets the stage for similar criminal behavior in the future.
When the president and the top law enforcement official in the country treat the prosecution of Wall Street crimes as an issue of minor importance, there needs to be political pressure to prevent it from simply being swept under the rug.
Tell President Obama and the co-chairs of the financial crimes unit: Don't take criminal indictments off the table.
With a short window of time, now more than ever, we need you to speak out.

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"Those that dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the day to find that all was vanity, but the dreamers of the day, are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams and make them real."

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