New Emails Reveal Banks' Pre-Recession Arrogance, But Admin Fails at Prosecuting Financial Misdeeds
Yesterday Bloomberg News published an op-edby William D. Cohan which rips into newly-released Lehman Bros. email that reveal just how much the firm--and others of its type-- knew about the impending financial crisis:
...the cache dispels the myth that Dick Fuld, chief executive officer of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and his close associates were unaware of the risks their business faced in 2007 and 2008. That would be bad enough, but the more devastating reality is that Fuld and his sycophants were warned repeatedly but were blinded by their hubris.
The records confirm, yet again, that the “forces-out-of- our-control” argument we hear from Wall Street leaders is bunk. It is the ill-advised behavior of one banker after another, day in and day out, that leads to the sort of devastating financial crisis we are only now emerging from.
The entire piece is well worth a read.
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast has just run anotherarticle by Peter J. Schweitzer and Peter Boyer on the failure of the Obama administration to go after these guys, explaining that when it comes to prosecuting financial fraud, this administration has been all talk and no action.
"There hasn't been any serious investigation of any of the large financial entities by the Justice Department, which includes the FBI," says William Black, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who, as a government regulator in the 1980s, helped clean up the S&L mess. Black, who is a Democrat, notes that the feds dealt with the S&L crisis with harsh justice, bringing more than a thousand prosecutions, and securing a 90 percent conviction rate. The difference between the government's response to the two crises, Black says, is a matter of will, and priorities. "You need heads on the pike," he says. "The first President Bush's orders were to get the most prominent, nastiest frauds, and put their heads on pikes as a demonstration that there's a new sheriff in town."
Obama delivered heated rhetoric, but his actions signaled different priorities. Had Obama wanted to strike real fear in the hearts of bankers, he might have appointed former special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald or some other fire-breather as his attorney general. Instead, he chose Eric Holder, a former Clinton Justice official who, after a career in government, joined the Washington office of Covington & Burling, a top-tier law firm with an elite white-collar defense unit. The move to Covington, and back to Justice, is an example of Washington's revolving-door ritual, which, for Holder, has been lucrative--he pulled in $2.1 million as a Covington partner in 2008, and $2.5 million (including deferred compensation) when he left the firm in 2009.
There's a reason Occupy Wall Street hasn't gone away.