Wall Street's corruption runs deeper than you can fathom
Of the myriad policy decisions that have brought us to our current precipice, from the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the invasion of Iraq and the gerrymandering of House districts across the country, few have proven as consequential as the demise of Glass-Steagall. Signed into law as the U.S.A. Banking Act of 1933, the legislation had been crucial to safeguarding the financial industry in the wake of the Great Depression. But with its repeal in 1999, the barriers separating commercial and investment banking collapsed, creating the preconditions for an economic crisis from whose shadow we have yet to emerge.
Carmen Segarra might have predicted as much. As an employee at the Federal Reserve in 2011, three years after the dissolution of Lehman Brothers, she witnessed the results of this deregulation firsthand. In her new book, “Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street,” she chronicles the recklessness of institutions like Goldman Sachs and the stunning lengths the United States government went to to accommodate them, even as they authored one of the worst crashes in our nation’s history.
“They didn’t want to hear what I had to say,” she tells Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “And so I think what we have in terms of this story is really not just a failure of the banks and the regulators, but also a failure of our prosecutors. I mean, a lot of the statutes that could be used—criminal statutes, even, that could be used to hold these executives accountable are not being used, and they have not expired; we could have prosecutors holding these people accountable.”
Segarra also explains why she decided to blow the whistle on the Fed, and what she ultimately hopes to accomplish by telling her story. “I don’t like to let the bad guys win,” she says. “I’d rather go down swinging. So for me, I saw it as an opportunity to do my civic duty and rebuild my life. … I was very lucky to be blessed by so many people who I shared the story to, especially lawyers who were so concerned about what I was reporting, who thought that the Federal Reserve was above this, who thought that the government would not fail us after the financial crisis, and who were livid.”
“Noncompliant” explores one of the darkest chapters in modern American history, but with a crook and unabashed narcissist occupying the Oval Office, its lessons are proving remarkably timely. “We live in a culture where we reward bad behavior, we worship bad behavior, and it’s something that needs to stop,” she cautions. “Changing the regulatory culture on [a] U.S. governmental level is something that’s going to take a decade, maybe two. And we need to start now, before things get worse.”
Listen to Segarra’s interview with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below:
Robert Scheer: Hi, I’m Robert Scheer, and this is another edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” where the intelligence comes from my guests. Today, Carmen Segarra. She’s written a book, just came out, called “Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street.” And boy, did she ever. Perhaps you remember this case; it was in 2011, two, three years into the Great Recession. There was a lot of pressure from Congress that these banks be regulated in a more serious way. As a result, Carmen Segarra, someone of considerable education, was brought in. And she was assigned to do a survey of Goldman Sachs, to go over to Goldman Sachs. And I just want to preface this, people have to understand that not only is the Federal Reserve an incredibly—the most important economic institution in the United States, but the New York Federal Reserve plays a special role being in New York. And they are basically entrusted with regulating the banks, and they are the institution that most definitely failed in that task, and helped bring about the Great Recession. Would you agree with that assessment?
Carmen Segarra: Yes, I would agree with that assessment. When I joined the Federal Reserve, as you pointed out, I was hired from outside the regulatory world, but within the legal and compliance banking world, to help fix its problems. And I was well aware of the problems that existed. And scoping the problems itself was relatively easy; I mean, within days of arriving, I had participated in meetings where you had Goldman Sachs executives, you know, lying, doublespeaking, and misrepresenting to regulatory agencies without fear of repercussions. And where I saw Federal Reserve regulators actively working to suppress and expunge from the record evidence of wrongdoing that could be used by regulatory agencies, prosecutors, and even the Federal Reserve itself to hold Goldman Sachs accountable. The question was, when I arrived, you know, are these problems fixable? And, spoiler alert: I don’t think so.
RS: Well, your book really is a compelling read on, really, what one could consider the dark culture of finance capital. Most of us know very little about it; we think it’s boring, it’s detailed and so forth. And I was thinking of another woman observer of great education and experience, who first tipped me off as a journalist when I was trying to cover the stuff about banking deregulation and so forth, and when Clinton was president and they did the basic financial deregulation. A woman named Brooksley Born, who was head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and she had your kind of background, you know; a leading lawyer with the banks, and so forth. Understood this a lot better than most of the men who were powerful, including Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; Lawrence Summers, who took over from him and went on to be the head of Harvard; Alan Greenspan–none of them really understood these collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps; she did. She blew the whistle on it, and they basically destroyed her. She was forced out of the Clinton administration, and what have you. Did you know about Brooksley Born’s work when you got into this? Do you have any sense? I mean, this was really sort of the first major whistleblower, and she was, as you have been, basically pushed aside.
CS: Yes. I definitely knew about her. And you know, I have to say that I was, you know, just taking that historical perspective, which I think is an important point of view through which we should approach this topic. I mean, I remember when I was in law school, I was one of the very first graduating classes to graduate into a post-Glass-Steagall world. From a 50,000-foot level, I think people have a better understanding of what that means, in the sense, you know, you have all of a sudden the securities and the banking products can get together. But from a practical standpoint, from a ground-zero level, where I was at, that essentially meant two things. From a professional standpoint, we studied and were aware of the fact that there were a bunch of people on one side of the aisle, the investment products side–you know, the collateralized debt obligations that you mentioned. And then there were people who were on the banking side; we’re talking, you know, for purposes of argument, credit cards and debit cards. And that these people, they may have known about their products, but they were highly specialized; they only knew about the one or two things that they touched, and they certainly didn’t know about them and how they interacted together. And one of the things that I remember studying were not just the cases of whistleblowers, but also discussing amongst our classmates, you know, what the impact would be of all of a sudden having a class or a series of classes, graduating from law school, with people who are focusing on banking and compliance, like I was, and who are having to understand both of these products and sort of how they interact together. And what, sort of visualizing what our work life would be like, in terms of reporting to people that had an incomplete understanding of how the banking world worked. So, yes, I was definitely aware; I understood perfectly where she was coming from. And she was very much a cautionary tale for the rest of us who are lawyers. In terms of, if you find yourself in these difficult situations, you sort of game out what potentially can happen. And I certainly took it into consideration when I was gaming out whether or not to whistleblow.
RS: Well, before you get to the whistleblowing stage, I think you’re being too kind to what I personally think are people who should be considered as, or at least charged and examined often with what is criminal behavior. Because ignorance is really not a good defense; when they were called before congressional committees, these knowledgeable people admitted they really didn’t understand collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. And for people who are not that familiar, you mentioned Glass-Steagall. And what Glass-Steagall was, was one of the, really maybe the most important response of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s democratic administration to the Great Depression. And how did this terrible depression happen, how were the banks so irresponsible. And they decided the key thing was to separate investment banks from commercial bank; investment banks could be high-rollers, private money, you know what you’re doing, you have knowledge; and commercial banks where you’re basically protecting the assets of ordinary people, they’re not knowledgeable, they’re trusting your expertise. And eliminating Glass-Steagall eliminated this wall between the two kinds of banking. And the company that you went to observe, Goldman Sachs, was an investment bank. And by the working of that law, they should have been allowed to go belly-up when it turned out they had a lot of these dubious credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. To people who don’t know, a credit default swap was a phony insurance policy pretending to cover these things, but really there’s nothing backing it up. And somehow, in order to save them, they were allowed to announce they could do commercial banking. One could argue, in some ways, the barrier was lifted to help–Citigroup was of course the other one–Citibank. And these are two banks that the government stepped in to help and create this monster. Is it not the case?
CS: Yeah, that’s absolutely the case. But there’s a couple of things that we need to keep in mind. I mean, I think that we’re all sort of educated enough to know that, you know, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And so if a system can be corrupted, people that are allowed to grab hold of power will corrupt it–insofar and only for so long as we allow those people to have the ability and the power to corrupt it. So ultimately, talking about more or less rules, or different rules, is productive only to a point. Because ultimately what we’re talking about here is the haphazard, slap on the wrist, failure to truly enforce the rules and regulations equitably across the system. And that creates the imbalances that you see, for example, in Goldman Sachs, and that you see in the system in general. One of the things that happened as a result of Glass-Steagall coming down was that a lot of the investment bankers were allowed to take over the commercial banks. And those investment bankers knew nothing about banking, and Goldman is a great example of that. I mean, when I arrived three years in after the financial crisis, what was one of the things that was very shocking to me was going into meeting after meeting with Goldman senior management and hearing them lie, doublespeak, and most shockingly of all, insist that they didn’t have to comply with the law. And that is a problem. Because a bank that doesn’t believe, or management at a bank that doesn’t believe they have to comply with the law–you bet they are not supervising their employees correctly, and they’re not incentivizing employees correctly in terms of how to do their job. So their behavior is injecting enormous risk into the system.
RS: Why should they think they should comply with the law when they got the law written and they could get it rewritten? I mean, after all, the treasury secretary, who pushed in the Clinton administration, right, to get rid of this restraint of Glass-Steagall and allow companies like Goldman Sachs to cross that line, was Robert Rubin. And he had been a top executive at Goldman Sachs. In fact, people used to refer to it as Government Sachs, that they had people all over the government, and it was a revolving door. And I want to point out that what you did, which was really unique–you had the guts to record these conversations. When you finally got to have your say before Congress, you could be backed up because you had the record. And tell us about that record. The conversations you recorded are absolutely chilling in describing an atmosphere of cynicism; you know, corruption; contempt, actually, for the political process and for restraint and regulation.
CS: Yeah. And I would sort of add that part of what the book sort of points out is that I didn’t really get my say. I mean, Congress did hold a hearing, but they did not invite me to testify. They didn’t want to hear what I had to say. And so I think what we have in terms of this story is really not just a failure of the banks and the regulators, but also a failure of our prosecutors. I mean, a lot of the statutes that could be used–criminal statutes, even, that could be used to hold these executives accountable are not being used, and they have not expired; we could have prosecutors holding these people accountable. We could have trial lawyers filing cases and holding these people accountable. Yet we can’t count on them to do it; we can’t count on the judiciary to do anything about it. I mean, when you read about what happened in my case in the book, it’s tragic, you know? It’s unbelievable.
RS: Tell us about that. Because you had a judge who was actually deep into this system who threw your case out.
CS: The case was assigned to a judge who was friends with the attorney, I had worked with the attorney that represented the Fed. And then two days before dismissing the case, she revealed that she was married to someone who represented Goldman Sachs for a living. So, yeah, there you go. [Laughs] I mean, it’s almost impossible in terms of successfully blowing the whistle. But going back to your question with respect to the recordings and having a say, I think the question that we need to be asking ourselves is this: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Federal Reserve in general, is tasked with supervising the banks. They have recorders. They have the law on their side. New York is a one person consent state. Banks, private banks, habitually record everything that goes on inside the bank, and they do it for good reason. Because they do it to stop and prevent fraud, among employees and by anybody that walks in the door. Why is the Federal Reserve not recording these executives? Why are they not preserving evidence? I think that is the question that we need to be asking ourselves. You know, what I did was not special. What I did is what the Fed should have been doing.
RS: Well, it was special in that [Laughs]–come on! There have been a lot of witnesses to these crimes, really, and you’re the lone voice from within that system that dared to speak up. And as I said, had you not been able to document it with these tapes, you would have been just dismissed as some kind of kook. The book is called Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street. You know, what is so important is nuance and language and attitude. And the people on Wall Street can affect the protection of manners and complexity. I remember Lawrence Summers testifying in Congress on why you had to get rid of Glass-Steagall, and he said “this is very complicated.” And he said the same thing Alan Greenspan said: “These people know what they’re doing,” and so forth. It wasn’t complicated. If the Mafia did it, you’d see right through it in five minutes. Right? You were bundling a bunch of lousy deals together with some good deals, and you didn’t even know what was in there, and you sold them, and you got a phony insurance contract to back it up. And yet none of these people have been, gone to jail; very few, one or two have been prosecuted as kind of a scapegoat. But the book is a great story of an American heroine–but this is what everybody should do! [Laughs] I mean, the real issue about whistleblowers like yourself is why did it take you? Where were the other folks? How many people–yeah, go ahead.
CS: Yeah, agreed. I think that’s exactly right. You know, there’s a number of reasons why I wrote the book. First of all, because I think it’s an important contribution to the historical record. As to what is the systemic culture of corruption that exists in these regulatory agencies that are taking our taxpayer dollars and paying themselves handsome salaries to work against the American taxpayers. And then the second reason I wrote it is to incentivize people to come forward with their stories. I wasn’t the only person who wanted to blow the whistle in terms of what was going on there. My circumstances were unique, and I sort of go through it in the book, in the sense that I was very lucky, for example, that the Fed refused to even negotiate the mandated settlement that they were supposed to negotiate with me. But they refused, and that allowed me to sue. There’s a number of people who have gone through the process and have been silenced by, you know, getting a monetary offer and signing a settlement agreement. And we don’t hear about them because they are forced not to talk. What I sort of thought about was, you know, this is just a unique–you know, I didn’t ask to be in this situation, but I felt it was my civic duty. Because I do think that we need more people to really think about how in their daily lives, they can stop rewarding bad behavior. We live in a culture where we reward bad behavior, we worship bad behavior, and it’s something that needs to stop, you know. Changing the culture, the regulatory culture on the U.S. governmental level is something that’s going to take a decade, maybe two. And we need to start now, before things get worse. We are not in the best-off of situations as a country; you know, we have what seems like an economic boom, but it’s really just a debt-fueled economic boom that is going to be temporary. And it’s very tough to fix these types of cultural issues, system issues, when the hurricane of the next financial crisis hits. We need to fix it now, while we still have a semblance of peace, while we still have the sun shining. And we don’t know how much longer that’s going to be. I hope it’s long enough to fix it. I hope that people are inspired to come forward and to think about how to make a difference in their daily lives. You know, because we need to start thinking of raising children and raising adults that are incentivized in their daily lives to reward good behavior. I think that until we create a critical mass of Americans that in their daily lives refuse to reward bad behavior, we’re not going to see real systemic change.
RS: Well, we’ll see change. It might not be good change. I mean, you have Donald Trump–and I want to put some oomph behind this, that it’s bipartisan. Because one of the–you know, everybody, a lot of people I know are very upset about Donald Trump. He’s speaking to what Hillary Clinton calls the “deplorables”; but there’s a lot of people hurting out there. And if you read a study done by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis about the consequence of this economic meltdown that was engineered from places like Goldman Sachs, the human cost was incredible. I mean, people lost everything. They weren’t bailed out. There was no mortgage relief. They were not helped. The banks were bailed out. And yet no one has been held accountable, and the politicians, democrats and republicans, who supported it, have gotten off scot-free.
CS: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. This is not a democratic problem, this is not a republican problem. This is an American problem with worldwide impact. The U.S. dollar is a reserve currency. The world depends in large part on the American banking system to work. And for it to work, there are these rules, and these rules are there to create trust in the system and to create smooth processes in the system, so that money can be moved and the economy can continue to grow. If the world can no longer trust the American banking system because Americans cannot be trusted to regulate it, they are going to move away from the American banking system. They are going to move away from the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. And then we are going to find ourselves in the situation that a lot of countries that are not governed by reserve currencies find themselves occasionally, from time to time, whenever they have a crisis. You know, we’re talking about countries in Latin America; we’re talking about countries in Africa; we’re talking about countries in Asia. I hope the book will inspire people to really take a look around and realize, you know, the American consumer, the American worker, is incredibly powerful. You know, these banks cannot survive without our money. We don’t have to wait for the government to keep failing us; we don’t have to wait for the judiciary to keep failing us; we don’t have to wait for lawyers to keep failing us. We choose who we work for. We choose where we keep our money. We can choose to protest. We can choose to call our pension funds and tell them, I want you to stop doing business with Goldman Sachs. It’s what we do on a daily basis. When we stand up and we say, I am not going to be banking with these people–they will listen. It’s like, they control all of these other checks and balances that were put in place in terms of the government to stop them. So now it’s up to us as a people to actually do something about this.
RS: Let me take a break. And I’ve been talking to Carmen Segarra, who is actually the lone honest person from within the banking system that I know of who really took the story of what these people were doing, and swindling the American people, and fortunately documented it with tape recording–as they document everything; if you call the bank for information, “your conversation will be recorded to make it more efficient”–well, she turned the table on that, had the record. The book is called Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street. [omission for station break] I’m not going to be able, in the time that I have here, to do justice to this book, because the devil is in the details. I want to talk about some people who did speak up. I mentioned Brooksley Born, who was this brilliant member of the Clinton administration who got pushed out for speaking up. But when the pressure came down after the Great Recession, and the banks had to be questioned, they at Goldman Sachs turned to a Columbia University finance professor, David Beim. And he did a report. He had access to everything, he did this incredible report. We only know about it because it showed up in some footnote somewhere. And by the way, I haven’t given enough credit here to the people who have helped break this story. ProPublica, who did a really terrific job on it, and the NPR show This American Life, which really did a great job. So there has been really good reporting. As you pointed out, it was absolutely shameful that Congress did not really take testimony from you; you were there as an observer–I think in a red dress, to be noticed. [Laughs]
CS: Yes. Well, you know, red is the color of martyrs.
RS: And so I want to ask you about that. Before you even went there, this guy David Beim had done a study. And William Dudley, the president of the bank, didn’t even respond. He said thank you, they looked at the–and they never responded to the criticisms in that study, which were devastating. Of how the bank was operating.
CS: Yeah, but that’s how the Federal Reserve Bank of New York operates. And that’s, curiously enough, also how Goldman Sachs operates. They say one thing and do another. If you want to know what they’re doing, just flip it, right? I mean, if they’re asking for a report, that means that they plan to do nothing about it. And you know, the book sort of walks you through the story of how they played at this game of pretending to clean up the regulatory issues. I mean, the joke really was on us, the new regulators that were brought in from the industry to actually clean up the problems that were there. None of us are there at the Fed anymore. Every single one of those people that I talk about that validated my story, they’re gone. And they are gone under different circumstances, some in good standing, some in less good standing, but the point is they’re all gone. Because the purpose of bringing us in was not really to change things, it was to ensure that they had a smoke screen and a story to feed the press, that they would print, saying that they had indeed fixed this. And there was nothing else there to see.
RS: We’re going to run out of time here, but I want to nail down one–this chain of responsibility. And I had just mentioned New York Fed president William Dudley, who I believe ran into some difficulty; he had ownership in something that they were trading with. But leaving that aside, he replaced Timothy Geithner. And when Goldman Sachs, when this whole banking thing happened, there was no more important individual in this country, in a position to observe it, than Timothy Geithner. He had been in the Clinton administration; he had worked for Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers in the Clinton administration when they deregulated Wall Street. And he was rewarded for that deregulation, right, by being named to the most important regulatory position, to be head of the New York Fed. And Barack Obama in 2008, as the banking meltdown was happening, gave a speech at Cooper Union, April of 2008, blasting Wall Street. And then, when Hillary Clinton lost the primary, Barack Obama turned to Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, and these people for advice, and he named Timothy Geithner to be his treasury secretary. The guy who at the New York Fed, where you went there to work and to try to supervise Goldman Sachs–he knew everything about this, and told us nothing, and he was rewarded by being made treasury secretary.
CS: When I’m saying, you know, we have to stop rewarding bad behavior, that’s an example of what I’m talking about. It’s like, we have a culture where we reward people for their bad behavior. And in the Fed it is a systemic problem. And it is a problem that comes from the top down. And when I was at the Fed, Ben Bernanke was head of the Fed; Bill Dudley, as you pointed out, was the head of the New York Fed; and Sarah Dahlgren was his head of supervision. This is a very small world. We’re not talking about a lot of people; the culture is top-down, and everybody there just does what these people say, because if they don’t they’re afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. So from their perspective, they have nothing to lose, because they have a bunch of workers that are going to do as they say. And they will do what is in their best corporate interests. I mean, you have Bill Dudley, who was allowed to hold on to a lot of his investments that predated his arrival at the Fed and were held at Goldman Sachs. And you know, when you have somebody who’s not forced to really work for the government–as in divesting themselves of their own conflicts and truly taking taxpayer money and doing their job–then you can’t expect a good result to come from that. Again, we rewarded bad behavior. And that’s why I think, you know, the key here is really about taking a really good look at our daily lives and seeing, who are we rewarding on a regular basis? And we need to stop rewarding that bad behavior.
RS: But I want to challenge what I think is your optimism. And in fact, you are living proof that doing the right thing can be a career-ender. I haven’t asked you, I mean, I assume you still have a good career; you’re highly talented and competent, and you were, you know, extremely well educated. But you’re not being considered to be treasury secretary or something, right? The consequences for you were quite dire, weren’t they?
CS: They were. And you know, my career in banking is over on a permanent basis. But I think you sort of point out to, a little bit to my personality, and I hope it comes through in the book; I sort of talk about that fact that I’m just a very resilient person. And I just, I don’t like to let the bad guys win. I’d rather go down swinging. So for me, I saw it as an opportunity to do my civic duty and rebuild my life. You know, and I was very lucky to be blessed by so many people who I shared the story to, especially lawyers who were so concerned about what I was reporting, who thought that the Federal Reserve was above this, who thought that the government would not fail us after the financial crisis, and who were livid. And I’ve been blessed with their support through the process of whistleblowing, and I continue to be blessed by their support even after. I have a husband who was, you know, a real hero of the story in my book, and I have been able to remake my life as a lawyer in private practice. And my clients, you know, God bless them, they trust me to help them. And I wouldn’t change what I did for anything. Because I think for me–and I talk about it in the book–I think living a meaningful life is more important than making money. I think for me, making money is important insofar as it pays the bills. But once my bills are paid, it’s about having a meaningful life. And I just feel very, very lucky that I have had the life that I’ve had, that I got to go to a Catholic school that taught me the morals that I believe in. I think that I am who I am, and I think that I would be just as moral if I had grown up Jewish, or if I had grown up a Mormon, or if I had grown up a Protestant. So I feel very blessed that I was exposed to what good values and good behavior are. I decided since I was very little that that’s just the way I wanted to live my life, and that to live meaningfully was more important than anything else. And that has driven all of my decisions, and I found the experience to be rewarding. And when people talk to me about how bad things are and how things sort of look like they’re never going to turn around, I tell them, no. They will turn around. We just need to believe in ourselves and be our own saviors, and be our own heroes in our own daily lives.
RS: But let me, let me challenge that. And yes, you’re an exemplary person. No question. And people should read this book, Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street. But I want to focus on that word, “lone.” Lone whistleblower. These people had the same great education you had at the best schools, OK? They didn’t blow the whistle. No, they abetted the crime! They made it possible. They destroyed people like Brooksley Born, who dared challenge it. And the fact of the matter is, you can’t expect ordinary people–even myself. You know, I did graduate work in economics, I’m a professor, blah blah blah. But I can tell you, when I went into my bank loans, I didn’t know all the details and what they were talking about and everything. I counted on regulation, I counted on government, I counted on accountability, frankly, on the part of these institutions. So my view is, you can’t expect ordinary people–that’s why we had a distinction between investment banks and commercial banks. Commercial banks are supposed to deal with ordinary people, OK? They’re supposed to hold their money, give them a fair interest rate, make loans on their houses, and help them out. And they have to be regulated, because you know, the ordinary person can’t be an expert. The failure here is of the educated class. Of the superachievers. And you count on those people, yes, to do the right thing. But money talks. And the fact of the matter is, the people you went to school with, at the Ivy League schools, at the wherever–they sold us all out.
CS: I think you make a good point. But I also think that the problems are systemic and run deeper. I mean, I would point out, for example, just from a personal perspective, when I graduated both college and law school I happened to be one of those that graduated into a recession, twice. There weren’t too many jobs. I didn’t have too many options. I ended up working in where I ended up working because it was either that or not feed myself. And I think one of the problems that we have that is systemic is that we have allowed capitalism to create such huge imbalances in how we reward people for their daily work. So people are forced to do something that they may not even like, or may not even be good at, because they have no choice. It’s a shame, because we’re a big enough country, we have a lot of talent, there should be more invisible hand, central planning. This whole system where we are now turning our attention to creating computer programmers is more based on making sure that computer programming becomes a cheap, minimum-wage job where the owners of the computer companies like Apple don’t have to overpay like they are doing now for those workers. So I think that there are more systemic issues than we realize. And I agree with you, I think that, you know, we were sold out by the intellectual class. But we still need to figure out–and the intellectuals are the ones who are going to help us–we need to figure out how to fix the system on a larger scale if we are going to rebalance things. And I don’t have the monopoly on the answer, on all the answers, you know? I’m just a girl born in Indiana to two Puerto Rican parents, you know? [Laughs] It’s not like I have any terms, in any way access to the higher echelons and how that works. But I think that we really do need to think about, in our own ways and in our own lives, how we can sort of convince other people to make the right choices on a daily basis. Because I think that if everybody takes making the right choices seriously, and realizes that we’re all in the same boat–you know, we’re all Americans, this is going to impact us all–I think that we can, slowly but surely, right the boat and start heading in the right direction.
RS: People should read Noncompliant–it’s an important word; they weren’t compliant–A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street. And recognize that the problem with modern governance is that the decisions are made by people who don’t have our common interest, who are bought off. That money talks. And one reason we have such despair now, and we go for demagogues, and we have such divisive, ugly language and ugly politics, is the so-called civilized, well-educated leaders of our country went for the money and betrayed ordinary people. I’ll let you take the last word, and then we’ll wrap it up.
CS: Ah, well, thank you. And again, you know, I know that you are sort of [Laughs] thinking about it from the perspective of a hopeless sort of case. But I do think that there is–and I hope people will look at it as the beginning of change. You know, yes, the book is a very sad story; the bad guys do win, for now. But just because they win the battle doesn’t mean they’re going to win the war. And I refuse to give up hope in the American people, and I refuse to give up hope in the American consumer. I think that we can make a difference if we try. Because I think that when we get the American people–no matter whether they’re democrats, republicans, independent–when we get them educated on the topic of finance, when we get them accessible stories, they will have their say. And they matter–we matter. And it’s important that they come to the table, otherwise this problem isn’t going to get solved.
RS: And if you’re someone who, or know someone who lost their home, or wondered what happened to the American dream, or where are the good jobs–you got to read Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street. My guest has been Carmen Segarra, who is a veteran of it, and understands it. That’s it for Scheer Intelligence. The producers for Scheer Intelligence are Joshua Scheer and Isabel Carreon. Our engineers at KCRW are Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. And at USC, at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Victor Figueroa and Sebastian Grubaugh provided excellent assistance, as well as NPR in New York. I’m Robert Scheer. See you next week.