What a satisfying sight it would’ve been for the public to see Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and other high-rolling Wall Street banksters in handcuffs for having illegally foreclosed on the homes of hundreds of thousands of American families.
But, no. Instead of the kingpins of finance finally having to take responsibility for evicting so many people and wrecking the nation’s housing market, not a single one has even been pursued by the law. Rather, federal regulators have negotiated a secret deal with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and nine other mortgage lending giants, letting banks pay $10 billion in penalties to end the case against them.
The lesson here is clear: If your crime is vast enough, forget doing time, you don’t even personally pay the fine – you just unleash your mad dog lawyers to cut a deal, shifting the cost of your felonious profiteering scheme onto your bank’s shareholders. Letting the chief schemers deflect responsibility also has zero deterrent effect on their future scheming, and it destroys public trust in the notion of equal justice for all. “It’s not fair,” we shout in exasperation.
But the big shots shout back: “Fair? That’s where you take your pig to win a blue ribbon. This is Wall Street, baby – grab all you can!”
So they’re still there, still scheming, profiting, and grinning. In the same week that Goldman Sachs agreed to pay a fine for its illicit treatment of homeowners, it announced that CEO Lloyd Blankfein was awarded some $19 million in pay (including a $6 million bonus) Likewise, JPMorgan agreed to a sweetheart settlement for its mortgage malfeasance, then – a week later – it delivered an $11.5 million paycheck to its chief, Jamie Dimon.
Anyone who says “crime doesn’t pay” simply isn’t paying attention to Wall Street.
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks. Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top. He publishes a populist political newsletter, “The Hightower Lowdown.” He is a New York Times best-selling author, and has written seven books including, Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back; If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates; and There’s Nothing In the Middle Of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. His newspaper column is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate.
This piece was first published on Jim Hightower’s website.