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Friday, 27 September 2013 08:24

The Wall Street Protection Racket: Pay the Government Fines and Bankers Don't Get Prosecuted

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

jail9 29BuzzFlash at Truthout has regularly written about the failure of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to hold the masters of the universe who gamble with America's assets legally accountable for their actions. A March 7 BuzzFlash commentary, "Holder Admits That Department of Justice Believes Big Bankers Are Above the Law," contains some of the key hyperlinks to columns we have written on this injustice.

Jeff Macke, writing on Yahoo Finance, reconfirms that the banks too big to fail are running the show in cahootz with their revolving door colleagues at the Department of Justice (and elsewhere in government, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)):

Ritholtz Wealth Managment CIO and Big Picture editor Barry Ritholtz says JPMorgan has shelled out about $11 billion in fines and spent around $16 billion in legal fees in the last few years. "This is just the cost of doing business for these mega banks."

There's the rub. Paying off regulators and settling criminal charges is only supposed to be the "cost of doing business" for criminals. When the FBI goes after the Mafia the stated goal was putting them out of business. There is no specific goal when it comes to cracking down on Wall Street. Only a portion of the settlements collected go[es] to the actual victims.

Remember, as the Cosa Nostra or the narcos consider, such "payoffs" (fines in this case) are just factored in as an expense in order to make a large profit.  Remember, Jamie Dimon and his cohorts with their hands on the majority of America's banking money aren't paying a cent from their own pockets.  Neither do the dons or the drug kingpins.

As Macke observes:

Ritholtz offers a related explanation for the lack of prosecutorial zeal. "The single greatest innovation of the banking sector has been to convince the Justice Department and Treasury that if you prosecute us for our crimes we'll send the economy back into the abyss." He thinks its "a bunch of hooey" but there's something holding the government back when it comes to pursuing an end game with the mega banks and it's obviously not an absence of violations.

The banks are making enough money to pay off the regulators and satisfy shareholders. It's a good business....

Main Street funds all of this but apparently our outrage is limited to protest groups [and publications like Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout, as well as the likes of Matt Taibbi] JPMorgan has added a legal division to its existing mega bank. If anyone really cared about stopping the mutual parasitism between Wall Street, Washington, and investors, charges would be brought against the executives heading the criminal organizations.

There is no justice being served. All we have are huge payoffs, beaming AG's and Jamie Dimon trotting between his office and the Justice Department. It's all just theater serving to prove what Main Street has suspected all along: they're getting screwed by bankers and politicians.

Yes, it's just theater among those in the revolving door of government and the gilded financial world who get their wads of cash from the milking the same cow.

Too bad the Department of Justice can't prosecute itself under the RICO Act for its failure to prosecute Wall Street banksters.

Although the SEC can only impose civil penalties, it is in the same boat of bullion as the top Department of Justice officials, according to a recent Project on Government Oversight (POGO) analysis.  The SEC is so rife with conflict of interest that recusals are common, which makes decision-making on enforcement challenging when the SEC board consists of only five people:

The toll of the revolving door between the government and the securities industry was dramatically illustrated last week when two of the top five officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sat on the sidelines as the agency approved a settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The Wall Street Journal reported that SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Commissioner Daniel Gallagher recused themselves from voting on the settlement because of legal work they had done for JPMorgan.

The remaining three commissioners voted two-to-one to approve the settlement, which included a rare admission of wrongdoing by JPMorgan.

Isn't it unfair that people who kite checks can't get away with "a rare admission of wrongdoing by JPMorgan"? Don't such people get prosecuted and tried in court? Not so for the masters of the universe on Wall Street. They are "made men" and instead of prison, they are allowed to voluntarily admit wrongdoing and walk away.

This week BuzzFlash at Truthout ran a column, "Half Ounce of Pot Gets Louisiana Man 20 Years in Prison." The man should have been carrying around a couple of sacks of fraudulently sold sub-prime mortgages. If he had them on him when arrested, he'd be smoking a cigar and sipping cognac now somewhere in a posh multimillion dollar duplex on Fifth Avenue.

(Photo: DonkeyHotey)