Predator Nation: How Financial Criminalization Crashed the Economy, and the Culprits Got Off Scot-Free
He exposes the networks of academic, financial, and political influence, in all recent administrations, that prepared the predators’ path to conquest.
Over the last several decades, the United States has undergone one of the most radical social and economic transformations in its history.
·Finance has become America’s dominant industry, while manufacturing, even for high technology industries, has nearly disappeared.
· The financial sector has become increasingly criminalized, with the widespread fraud that caused the housing bubble going completely unpunished.
· Federal tax collections as a share of GDP are at their lowest level in sixty years, with the wealthy and highly profitable corporations enjoying the greatest tax reductions.
· Most shockingly, the United States, so long the beacon of opportunity for the ambitious poor, has become one of the world’s most unequal and unfair societies.
Ferguson shows how from the Reagan administration forward, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite.
It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers. It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008.
It is no exaggeration to say that since the 1980s, much of the American (and global) financial sector has become criminalized, creating an industry culture that tolerates or even encourages systematic fraud. The behavior that caused the mortgage bubble and financial crisis was a natural outcome and continuation of this pattern, rather than some kind of economic accident.
It is important to understand that this behavior really is seriously criminal. We are not talking about neglecting some bureaucratic formality. We are talking about deliberate concealment of financial transactions that aided terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation, and large-scale tax evasion; assisting in concealment of criminal assets and activities by others; and directly committing frauds that substantially worsened the worst financial bubbles and crises since the Depression.
None of this conduct was punished in any significant way. On November 7, 2011, the New York Times published an article (Wall Street’s Repeat Violations, Despite Repeated Promises) based on its own review of major banks’ settlements of SEC lawsuits since 1996. The Times’ analysis found fifty-one cases in which major banks had settled cases involving securities fraud, after having previously been caught violating the same law, and then promising the SEC not to do so again. The Times’ list, furthermore, covered only SEC securities fraud cases; it did not include any criminal cases, private lawsuits by victims, cases filed by state attorneys general, or any cases of bribery, money laundering, tax evasion, or illegal asset concealment — all areas in which the banks have numerous and major violations. In Predator Nation, I provide detailed, well-documented accounts of behavior ranging from assisting Enron’s frauds (Citigroup, Merrill Lynch), to fraudulently exploiting the Internet bubble (most of the major investment banks), to using for-profit colleges to exploit government student loan programs (Goldman Sachs), to assisting in money laundering and tax evasion on a large scale (at least eleven banks including UBS, Barclay’s, and Lloyds), to using bribery and artificially complex derivatives to destroy the finances of a county government (JP Morgan Chase), to profiting from Bernard Madoff even while strongly suspecting him to be a fraud (JP Morgan Chase, UBS).
Total fines for all these cases combined appear to be far less than 1 percent of financial sector profits and bonuses during the same period. There have been very few prosecutions and no criminal convictions of large U.S. financial institutions or their senior executives. Where individuals not linked to major banks have committed similar offenses, they have been treated far more harshly.
Given this background, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the mortgage bubble and financial crisis were facilitated not only by deregulation but also by the prior twenty years’ tolerance of large scale financial crime. First, the absence of prosecution gradually led to a deeply embedded cultural acceptance of unethical and criminal behavior in finance. And second, it generated a sense of personal impunity; bankers contemplating criminal actions were no longer deterred by threat of prosecution.
And just as the last twenty years of unpunished financial crime constituted a green light for the bubble, so, too, America’s non-response to the bubble and crisis is setting the tone for financial conduct in the future.
The Obama administration has rationalized its failure to prosecute any senior financial executives (literally, not a single one) for bubble-related crimes by saying that while much of Wall Street’s behavior was unwise or unethical, it wasn’t illegal. Here is President Obama at a White House press conference on October 6, 2011:
Well, first on the issue of prosecutions on Wall Street, one of the biggest problems about the collapse of Lehmans [sic] and the subsequent financial crisis and the whole subprime lending fiasco is that a lot of that stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal, it was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless….I think part of people’s frustrations, part of my frustration, was a lot of practices that should not have been allowed weren’t necessarily against the law.
The president and senior administration officials (such as Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division) have portrayed themselves as frustrated and hamstrung — desirous of punishing those responsible for the crisis, but unable to do so because their conduct wasn’t illegal, and/or the federal government lacks sufficient power to sanction them. With apologies for my vulgarity, this is complete horseshit.
When the federal government is really serious about something — preventing another 9/11, or pursuing major organized crime figures — it has many tools at its disposal and often uses them. There are wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping. There are special prosecutors, task forces, and grand juries. When Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, the FBI assigned hundreds of agents to the case.
In organized crime investigations, the FBI and federal prosecutors often start at the bottom in order to get to the top. They use the well established technique of nailing lower-level people and then offering them a deal if they inform on and/or testify about their superiors — whereupon the FBI nails their superiors, and does the same thing to them, until climbing to the top of the tree. There is also the technique of nailing people for what can be proven against them, even if it’s not the main offense. Al Capone was never convicted of bootlegging, large scale corruption, or murder; he was convicted of tax evasion.
In this spirit, here are a few observations about the ethics, legalities, and practicalities of prosecution related to the bubble:
First, much of the bubble was directly, massively criminal.
Second, if you really wanted to get these people, you could. Maybe not all of them, but certainly many. Some bubble-related violations are very clear, with strong written evidence, as my book Predator Nation demonstrates. And if you flipped enough people, some of them would undoubtedly have interesting things to say about what their senior management knew. In fact, there are many techniques, venues, organizations, regulations, and statutes, both civil and criminal, available to investigate these people, punish them, and recover the money they took — if you really wanted to. The federal government has used almost none of them.
Third, the moral argument for punishment is very strong, providing ample justification for erring on the side of aggressive legal pursuit. Whatever portion of banking conduct during the bubble was criminal, it was certainly substantial, and there is no doubt whatsoever that it was utterly, pervasively unethical, designed to defraud in reality if not in law. Since the crisis, the people who caused it have been anything but honest or contrite. They have been evasive, dishonest, and self-justifying, returning as quickly as possible to their unerringly selfish behavior. Their behavior caused enormous damage, both human and economic; the consequences of their wrongdoing are so large as to justify almost any action that could help to prevent another such crisis by creating real deterrence. There would also be intangible but large benefits to raising the general ethical standard of a vital industry, and one whose executives often become high-level government officials.
Given this background, let’s now consider the question of criminal liability, as well as the feasibility of prosecution.
The list of prosecutable crimes committed during the bubble, the crisis, and aftermath period by financial services firms and senior executives includes: securities fraud (many forms); accounting fraud (many forms); honest services violations (mail fraud statute); bribery; perjury and making false statements to federal investigators; Sarbanes-Oxley violations (certifying accounting statements and financial controls); RICO offenses and criminal antitrust violations; Federal aid disclosure regulations (related to Federal Reserve loans); Personal conduct offenses (many forms: drugs, tax evasion, etc.).
In Predator Nation I consider each of these categories in detail, naming many names and providing many specific examples. But in considering only one category, securities fraud, we already face an embarrassment of riches.
Almost all the prospectuses and sales material on mortgage-backed securities sold from 2005 through 2007 were a compound of falsehoods. But it starts even earlier in the food chain. We also know that mortgage originators committed securities fraud when they misrepresented the characteristics of loan pools, and the nature and extent of their due diligence with regard to them, when they sold pools to securitizers (and accepted financing from them). Most or all of the securitizers (meaning nearly all the investment banks and major banking conglomerates) then committed securities fraud when they misrepresented the characteristics of the loans backing their CDOs, the characteristics of the resulting mortgage-backed securities, and the nature and results of their due diligence in the process of creating those securities. The securitizers also committed securities fraud when they made similar misrepresentations to the insurers of, and sellers of credit default swap (CDS) protection on, those securities.
The executives of both originators and securitizers then committed a separate form of securities fraud in their statements to investors and the public about their companies’ financial condition. They knew that they were engaging in a Ponzi-like fraud that would eventually need to end, and as the bubble peaked and started to collapse, they repeatedly lied about their companies’ financial condition. In some cases they also concealed other material information, such as the extent to which they, themselves, and/or other executives of their firms, were selling or hedging their own stock holdings because they knew that their firms were about to collapse.
Next, several investment banks committed securities fraud when they failed to disclose that they were selling securities that were designed to fail so that the investment banks, and/or their hedge fund clients, could profit by betting on their failure. The Hudson and Timberwolf synthetic CDOs sold by Goldman Sachs, and which were the focus of the Levin Senate subcommittee hearings, provide a very strong basis for prosecution. Goldman’s trading arm had been dragooned into finding and dumping their most dangerous assets to naive institutional investors. Important representations in the Hudson sales material–that assets were not sourced from Goldman’s own inventory — were lies, and they were material lies, since investors had learned to be wary of banks clearing out their own bad inventory. E-mail trails show that top executives closely tracked the garbage disposals and were gleeful at the unloading of the Timberwolf assets — as they should have been, for the assets were nearly worthless within months. There have been no prosecutions.
In some cases, we already have clear evidence of senior executive knowledge of and involvement in these frauds. For example, quarterly presentations to investors are nearly always made by the CEO or CFO of the firm; if lies were told in those presentations, or if material facts were omitted, the responsibility lies with senior management. In some other cases, such as Bear Stearns, we already have evidence from civil lawsuits that very senior executives were directly involved in constructing and selling securities whose prospectuses contained lies and omissions.
The list is long. In chapters three through six of Predator Nation, I survey the financial sector’s behavior during the bubble, and provide dozens of examples of major criminal behavior. Again, there have been no prosecutions.
- Bankers Need To Face Consequences, Not Settlements (econmatters.com)
- Predator Nation by Charles Ferguson (ilene.typepad.com)
August 27, 2012 - Posted by aletho | Book Review, Corruption, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Bernard Madoff, Charles H. Ferguson, Finance, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, UBS, United States
3 Comments »
or go to
From the Archives
“March of shame” and incarceration at Durham Cathedral
On September 3rd, 1650 Scottish defence forces suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s invading English army at the Battle of Dunbar. Cromwell went on to ruthlessly ransack Edinburgh and other Scottish towns and cities and take control of the country south of the Highlands.
Immediately after the battle, Cromwell’s forces rounded up around five thousand Scottish prisoners and embarked on the ‘march of shame’. You will hear little about this in the history books probably because it marks a profound disgrace in the annals of English military history. … continue
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
September 19, 2011
March 8, 2011
January 2, 2011
October 10, 2010
July 5, 2010
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
January 5, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
- Obama Buggers Europe: Sanctions Deepen the Recession August 23, 2014
Looking for something?
TagsAfghanistan Africa al-Akhbar Al-Manar American Civil Liberties Union American Israel Public Affairs Committee Argentina Bashar al-Assad Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil Britain Canada Central Intelligence Agency China CIA Colombia East Jerusalem Egypt European Union FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation France Fukushima Gaza Germany Gilad Atzmon Hamas Hebron Hezbollah Honduras Hugo Chávez Human rights India Intelligence International Atomic Energy Agency International Middle East Media Center International Solidarity Movement Internet Iran Iraq Iraq War Israel Israeli settlement Japan Jerusalem John Kerry Latin America Lebanon Libya Ma'an Middle East National Security Agency NATO New York Times NSA Obama Pakistan Palestine Palestinian prisoners in Israel Police Press TV Russia Sanctions against Iran Saudi Arabia South America Syria Turkey UK Ukraine United Nations United States USA Venezuela West Bank Zionism
Visits Since December 2009
- 1,853,734 hits
Contact:atheonews (at) gmail.com
- US prepares military drill in W. Ukraine for mid-September September 3, 2014
- Syrian UN Ambassador: “Constructive Chaos” at Work in the Middle East September 2, 2014
- UIUC Chancellor to forward Salaita appointment to Trustees for vote on 9/11 September 2, 2014
- When the occupation machine falls off a cliff September 2, 2014
- Hamas: US is partner to Israeli crimes in Gaza September 2, 2014
- Report: Netanyahu says will not send delegation to Cairo talks September 2, 2014
- New York academics publish open letter in support of Students for Justice in Palestine September 2, 2014
- Israel Demolishes Orphanage Dairy Factory In Hebron September 2, 2014
- Jews, Hollywood, and Gaza: Some Thoughts September 2, 2014
- Democrats Are Doomed September 1, 2014
- Palestine’s ever decreasing circles September 1, 2014
- Defending Apartheid: Then in South Africa, Now in Palestine September 1, 2014
- 2 million British households to miss energy rebate September 1, 2014
- Immortal Technique: The War vs Us All featuring Mumia Abu Jamal September 1, 2014
- Nebraska Cops Receive no Jail Time for Stealing Memory Card, Despite Big Talk from County Attorney August 31, 2014
- Five point action plan for political advocacy in the UK on Palestine around reconstruction August 31, 2014
- UK’s MI6 aided torture of Nepal rebels: Report August 31, 2014
- Jim Page: I’d Rather Be Dancing (Rachel Corrie’s Song) August 31, 2014
Categories"Hope and Change" Aletho News Civil Liberties Corruption Deception Economics Environmentalism Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism False Flag Terrorism Full Spectrum Dominance Illegal Occupation Islamophobia Mainstream Media, Warmongering Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity Militarism Nuclear Power Science and Pseudo-Science Solidarity and Activism Subjugation - Torture Supremacism, Social Darwinism Timeless or most popular Video War Crimes Wars for Israel
This site is provided as a research and reference tool. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information and data provided at this site are useful, accurate, and current, we cannot guarantee that the information and data provided here will be error-free. By using this site, you assume all responsibility for and risk arising from your use of and reliance upon the contents of this site.
This site and the information available through it do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Nothing within this site or linked to by this site constitutes investment advice or medical advice.
Materials accessible from or added to this site by third parties, such as comments posted, are strictly the responsibility of the third party who added such materials or made them accessible and we neither endorse nor undertake to control, monitor, edit or assume responsibility for any such third-party material.
The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.
The word "alleged" is deemed to occur before the word "fraud." Since the rule of law still applies. To peasants, at least.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more info go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This is information for anyone that wishes to challenge our “fair use” of copyrighted material.
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe that content residing on or accessible through our website infringes a copyright and falls outside the boundaries of “Fair Use”, please send a notice of infringement by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will respond and take necessary action immediately.
If notice is given of an alleged copyright violation we will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material(s) in question.
All 3rd party material posted on this website is copyright the respective owners / authors. Aletho News makes no claim of copyright on such material.