USAWatchdog March 31 2014
White collar crime expert Professor William Black thinks the nation’s top bankers continue to get away with massive financial crime. The most recent $10 million fine of former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis for fraud illustrates the ongoing problem.
Professor Black says, “He’s not paying $10 million. Bank of America is paying the $10 million. So, he could care less, and he didn’t have to admit anything. And, unlike the typical Securities and Exchange settlement, he didn’t have to agree not to disparage the settlement. So, immediately he disparaged the settlement as a bunch of junk that wasn’t true. . . .
In this case, the fact came out that Lewis testified, the subject of this complaint was allegedly securities fraud at hiding the losses at Merrill Lynch which was acquired by B of A and said hey, it’s not me, it’s Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson . . . who ordered me to cover this up.
Professor Black goes on to say, “So the web is very tight and very protective of all these people, and they will trade off any amount of money in settlement that will be paid by the bank to insure the officers, even the ex-officers never have to pay and never are prosecuted. Even today, we are well into 2014, and the Department of Justice record is intact. There have been zero prosecutions of the elite officers who led the epic epidemic of fraud. It was the most destructive in world history, zero of them even unsuccessfully prosecuted, much less prosecuted.”
On JPMorgan’s involvement with the $65 billion Madoff Ponzi scheme, where the bank paid $2.5 billion for restitution and to settle fraud charges, Black says, “This was dirty as all hell. If it had come to a trial, instead of JPMorgan settling on this, it could have blown them completely out of the water.”
Professor Black contends that it’s not just JPMorgan, but many big banks committing rampant unprosecuted criminal fraud, and he says, “In all these civil fraud cases, which are now in the scores, the Justice Department and the Federal Housing Finance Administration and the various home loan banks have brought, all of those actions could have been brought as criminal prosecutions. . . . Only the Justice Department can bring criminal cases, and they have absolutely refused. . . . The bigger news is they are simply not investigating any of the big guys. They are only looking not just at minnows, but pan fried or small cases.”
On the LIBOR rate rigging fraud by the world’s 16 biggest banks, Professor Black says, “This is the largest cartel in world history by orders of at least three and probably four orders of magnitude. This is LIBOR, the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate. This is price fixing of this rate that is then used to set the price of over $300 trillion in financial product. A trillion is a thousand billion. This is massively bigger than the real economy. In order to fix this rate, all the banks not only had to agree to form a cartel and cheat the rest of the world, but had to do so for years. If even a single one of them had defected, and made it public, the whole thing falls apart. . . .And guess what, our old friend JPMorgan is back as one of the entities that engaged in this fraud.”
On the rash of banker deaths and suicides, Black states, “We don’t know, but we do know one of the recent ones abroad had told people he had feared an investigation of his role in Deutsche Bank. The reason we are into these stupid rumors and such is the failure to do real investigations of the large entities and real investigations as was done in the Savings and Loan crisis. It was even done in the Enron era. We haven’t mentioned the obvious, and that is big finance is the leading financial contributor to both parties.”
What is the result of massive rampant unprosecuted fraud? Professor Black says, “If you don’t have any accountability, you not only make certain that there is going to be a next blow-up, but it will be worse. . . . We have effectively removed the criminal laws for a particular elite class of frauds.”