Matt Taibbi on Big Banks’ Lack of Accountability (Moyers Video Interview)

Bill Moyers interviews Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi on why banksters who clearly engaged in illegal activity that crashed the American economy have been held harmless from prosecution.

This is the blurb at Bill Moyers’ indispensable site:

“Matt Taibbi on Big Banks’ Lack of Accountability
February 1, 2013

Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi joins Bill to discuss the continuing lack of accountability for “too big to fail” banks which continue to break laws and act unethically because they know they can get away with it. Taibbi refers specifically to the government’s recent settlement with HSBC — “a serial offender on the money laundering score” — who merely had to pay a big fine for shocking offenses, including, Taibbi says, laundering money for both drug cartels and banks connected to terrorists.

Taibbi also expresses his concern over recent Obama appointees — including Jack Lew and Mary Jo White — who go from working on behalf of major banks in the private sector to policing them in the public sector.

“The rule of law isn’t really the rule of law if it doesn’t apply equally to everybody. If you’re going to put somebody in jail for having a joint in his pocket, you can’t let higher ranking HSBC officials off for laundering $800 million for the worst drug dealers in the entire world,” Taibbi tells Bill. “Eventually it eats away at the very fabric of society.”

Producer: Gina Kim. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Associate Producer: Reniqua Allen.
Intro Editor: Sikay Tang.”

16 Responses

  1. The problem is, being able to prove that HSBC violated the law is not the same thing as being able to prove that an individual corporate director or manager at HSBC committed an act that violated the law.

    Criminal prosecutions of individuals require the government to prove that the defendant committed a specific overt act, and that that act violated a specific statute.

    It would be a violation of the rule of law, not an upholding of it, to convict a person without being able to meet that standard.

    • One of the reasons mortgage fraud has been rampant is because the federal, state and local law enforcement, investigative, and prosecutorial authorities have deemed it a low priority and banks are aware that the worst that will likely happen to those who get caught is being a defendant in a civil action where they will have to pay restitution to the victim.

      The Office of Comptroller of the Currency is the federal agency which reguates national banks and has a grieveance process which has been some assisatnce to the members of the public who have been victimized. Some states, such as Michigan, have enacted tough legislation against notarys public who may commit misconduct in the notarization of mortgages and other bank documents in the loan process.

      Courts are routinely voiding foreclosure attempts by banks and other lending institutions who have been involved in misconduct and other improprieties in the mortgage loan process, but typically mortgagors must have the means to employ legal counsel to raise these claims.

      • Talking in terms of regulatory frameworks and enforcement, as you do here, seems to be a more productive path than trying to bootstrap unprovable individual prosecutions out of these cases against the banks.

        Most of what was done to cause the mortgage meltdown did not involve individuals violating criminal statutes.

    • Too bad the banksters aren’t held under the much broader standards of RICO and anti-terrorist laws, where the government gets to seize everything. Investors need to be punished into taking a close look at the crimes of their hirelings. Instead, investors legally can sue those hirelings if they haven’t done everything to maximize profits that they think they can get away with under the law, cutting the margin closer and closer.

      The corporation, under American law, is an institution designed to screw everything and everyone, privatize the gains, immunize the investors, and socialize the damage. Whatever beliefs the Founding Fathers had about the incentives our propertied class had in protecting society and its future mean nothing to a computerized stock-trading program crunching profit figures. The citizens cannot win.

      • When we’re talking about the really important bad actors in the mortgage meltdown, we’re talking about huge banks whose “investors” are the retirement portfolios of hundreds of millions of ordinary individuals, pension accounts, and municipalities, who have zero operative control over those banks. I don’t see how punishing them, people and institutions who are also the ones who suffered the most from this disaster, is going to solve the problem.

        • Yeah, in cases of such grand collective guilt, how could anyone ever want people who actually make the day to day, micromoment decisions to get rich off stealing the value of all those ordinary individuals’ investments and homes, to what did the old movies say, “face the music?” What a joke to say that adding a little spice of the fear of prosecution and jail time to the swill of greed that the FEW who actually profit, hugely, from all this, swim in? You really have all the hack arguments ready to hand, in between the personalities…

  2. It’s clear that Joe from Lowell is here to defend the broad
    ruling class status quo in as low-key a manner as to escape Prof Cole’s notice, which it shouldn’t have as of many weeks ago.

    • Aaaawww, what would make you say that? Joe is just trying tokeep the rest of us honest. To make sure we know how little we really know of all the important stuff that is being done in our names and for us and to us…

    • It’s clear that Joe from Lowell is here to defend the broad
      ruling class…

      Or I’m making a point about the law, and your obsession with sophomoric Marxism caused it to zoom over your head.

      One or the other.

  3. Joe from Lowell has a point but that should not be an insuperable barrier. At some point individual X made a decision, whether to do something or to not do something, that contributed to an illegal act. If I can be barred from doing something, e.g., frequenting a specific part of town (i.e., via exclusionary laws) because I have been found to look for prostitutes there, then I am being barred from being in a place for general purposes even though my intent was to buy dog food, not sex. Thus if HSBC used electronic funds transfers to facilitate laundering drug money it should be barred from any electronic funds transfer for Y period of time. What would happen to HSBC if it could not transfer any funds for any purpose for a period of one year?

    Just a question.

    • The solution you’re talking about is one that hits HSBC on the corporate level, not the level of individual managers or directors.

      My comment was about the idea of responding with individual criminal sanctions.

  4. Mary Jo white must have extreme knowledge of the shenanigans going on in the financial world having been an attorney at their service.

    Question: Can the lawyer-client privilege prevent her from taking actions based on that knowledge? Like a priest picking a perp out of a police lineup after the perp confessed the crime to the priest.

    Just curious.

    • Generally, no.

      However there are recognized exceptions in some jurisdictions that allow an attorney-client privilege to be inapplicable to “ongoing fraud”.

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