Bill Moyers and Matt Taibbi: Everyone Pays If the Banksters Don't Go to Jail
Journalist Matt Taibbi assesses the Obama Administration’s approach to holding banks accountable for their behavior, and early indications are not promising. Taibbi tells Bill that fearing another economic calamity is no excuse for turning a blind eye to shockingly unethical decisions and management.
Full transcript appears below the video:
BILL MOYERS: I t’s time to talk with journalist Matt Taibbi. You’ve seen him on our broadcast before. A contributing editor at “Rolling Stone,” he’s been tracking the high crimes and misdemeanors of Wall Street and Washington for years.
You're working on a story right now that'll come out in a couple of weeks on the HSBC settlement. That's the, tell me about that, why it interests you.
MATT TAIBBI: Well, the HSBC settlement was a really shocking kind of new low in the history of the too big to fail issue. HSBC was a serial offender on the money laundering score. They had been twice given formal cease and desist orders by the government. One dating back as far as 2003, another one in 2010 for inadequately policing the accounts in their system. They laundered over $800 million for cartels in Colombia.
BILL MOYERS: Drug cartels?
MATT TAIBBI: Drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico. They laundered money for terrorist connected banks in the Middle East. Russian gangsters. Literally, you know, I talked to one prosecutor who's, like, "They broke basically every law in the book and they did business with every kind of criminal you can possibly imagine. And they got a complete and total walk." I mean, they had to pay a fine.
BILL MOYERS: $1.9 billion, a lot of money.
MATT TAIBBI: It's a lot of money. But it's five weeks of revenue for the bank, to put that in perspective. And no individual had to suffer any consequences at all. There were no criminal charges no individual fines, which was incredible. Incredible.
BILL MOYERS: Lenny Breuer also forced the Swiss bank UBS, as you know, to pay a big fine in the LIBOR, the price fixing conspiracy. And that outraged you as well, didn't it?
MATT TAIBBI: This is the, I think the biggest financial scandal of all time. It was a price fixing scandal where, essentially, some of the world's biggest banks got together and they conspired illegally to artificially rig the global interest rates which are based upon this London inner bank offered rate, which is a rate that measures how much it costs for banks to lend money to each other.
This LIBOR rate affects the prices of hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial products. And it goes from everything from credit cards to mortgages to municipal bonds. Basically everything in the world the price is, you know, is somehow connected to LIBOR. And these guys were monkeying around with this for individual profit. And they got, again, a complete and total walk on this. There were no criminal charges, which is just unbelievable.
BILL MOYERS: Did you see the Frontline documentary “The Untouchables?”
MATT TAIBBI: I did.
BILL MOYERS: Then you're familiar with Lanny Breuer's testimony.
MARTIN SMITH in Frontline: The Untouchables: You made a reference to losing sleep at night worrying about what a lawsuit might result in at a large financial institution. Is that really the job of a prosecutor to worry about anything other than simply pursuing justice?
LENNY BREUER in Frontline: The Untouchables: I think I am pursuing justice and I think the entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice, but in any given case ... prosecutors around the country being responsible should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case there’s some huge economic effect. If it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly counter-parties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly, it’s a factor we need to know and understand.