Why The Erosion of Public Trust? Here’s Why

by Diane Dimond on January 13, 2014

Why Aren’t Bad Bankers Held Liable Too?

If you robbed a bank and got caught you would go to jail, right?

If you waited in the getaway car while your cohort robbed the bank you would go to jail as an accomplice, right? Of course you would.  That’s what the law mandates. 

So how come, after a bank stands mute as customers are robbed, do they get “deferred prosecution?”

I ask these questions after this week’s decision by the feds to merely fine JPMorgan Chase for failing to report their very real suspicions about mega-fraudster Bernard Madoff. No criminal charges, no one is held responsible and faces jail time – just $2.5 billion in fines and penalties for an organization, that experts say, will likely make as much as $23 billion in profit this year.

Under the settlement agreement, announced by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, any criminal charges were deferred for two years – and maybe forever – if the bank keeps its nose clean.  All JPMorgan had to do was admit its bad conduct, pay the fine and agree to strengthen its anti-money laundering policies. 

Plays By A Different Set of Rules?

JPMorgan immediately issued a statement saying, “We recognize we could have done a better job pulling together various pieces of information and concerns about Madoff from different parts of the bank.” Really?

Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter Michael Hiltzik, writing in the Los Angeles Times, declared the JPMorgan admission, “Resembles hay after it’s been passed through the digestive system of a horse.” Hiltzik also believes JPMorgan has re-written the history of what it knew about Madoff’s criminal practices – and when they knew it. 

“JPMorgan, where Madoff kept his major bank accounts and which profited handsomely off its relationship in numerous ways, knew Madoff was crooked,” Hiltzik wrote. “Bank executives had him figured out … early,”

Look, I don’t know much about high finance but let’s review some facts about what JPMorgan did – and didn’t do – after it had reason to believe Madoff was a con-man of mammoth proportions.

Keep in mind. the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 requires banks to file what’s called “suspicious activity reports” with federal regulators if they think a customer is dealing in ill-gotten gains. JPMorgan consistently stayed mum about its Madoff concerns and under the law that is a felony.

Madoff Laundered Money – JPMorgan Looked the Other Way

In October 2008, the bank’s branch in London apparently saw great financial doom looming and finally registered their concerns about Madoff with British regulators. While required to file the same report in the U.S., JPMorgan did not.

Over the next few weeks the bank quietly withdrew some $300 million of its own money invested in various Madoff funds. By December, Madoff was in handcuffs, paraded as a master Ponzi perp before his horrified investors – and the world.

In other words, JP Morgan never lifted a finger to help protect clients but when it came to protecting itself against risk bank executives made sure they were ahead of the curve.

JPMorgan executives likely consider the just-imposed $2.5 billion fine as simply the cost of doing business. Over the last year the organization has agreed to pay out a collective $20 billion for various serious banking violations.

Imagine, if you robbed a bank of, say, $1 million and prosecutors agreed to let you pay $1,000 to make the criminal charges go away. Being able to pay away your crimes would never happen with an individual but when it comes to financial institutions the legal playing field is suddenly different. Why is that?

Because our Department of Justice says that’s okay.

Remember the days when prosecutors actually came to the aid of cheated investors to punish those responsible? The days when charlatan convicts actually went to prison and names like Mike Milken, Ivan Boesky, Jeffery Skilling and Charles Keating made the news?

Time Mag: Mozilo “Blameworthy” for Housing Crisis

Today, swindlers like former Countrywide Financial Services CEO Angelo Mozilo – a man widely considered to have been a kingpin of the sub-prime mortgage crisis – can walk away from the financial messes they create by simply opening up their fattened wallets. Mozilo was four days away from the opening of his criminal fraud trial when the Security and Exchange Commission suddenly dropped the charges in exchange for his payment of a $67.5 million dollar fine.

That’s justice? Is it any wonder that so many Americans have grown distrustful of both the federal government and big institutions? This is why so many citizens have come to believe that there are two justice systems in this country – one for the average citizen and one for those with money and connections.

While watching the U.S. Attorney’s news conference announcing the latest settlement I couldn’t help but notice not one word was said regarding the federal government’s failure to monitor Madoff’s years-long misdeeds. Certainly the bank was wrong but where had the SEC, the FBI and other government agencies been all those years that Madoff was scamming people? If someone as blatant as Madoff slipped through the cracks how many other financial fraudsters are operating unnoticed today?

There seems to be no end to the number of fingers of blame that can rightfully be pointed. Yet, hardly anyone has been held personally responsible for the myriad of financial crimes we’ve seen over the last few years.

Rakoff: Why Aren’t Bankers Held Responsible?

U.S. District Court judge Jed Rakoff recently wrote a brave essay about Wall Street’s watchdogs. Rakoff, who has an expertise in securities law, wrote that exacting fines and promises to do better from institutions is, “little more than window dressing,” and he lambastes the shift in DOJ policy toward negotiating with companies.

“Companies do not commit crimes,” the judge wrote. “Only their agents do … So why not prosecute the agent who actually committed the crime?”

Is anyone at the Justice Department listening?



Diane Dimond January 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Facebook Friend Kim Winton writes:

“Two justice systems is correct, Diane. Why else would an ‘average Joe’ get jail time and penalties for a misdeed, yet a person with affluence and stature gets fined and be home that same day to have dinner with their family? Keep in mind, the crimes committed are identical. It makes me very distrustful of our system, and also makes me angry.”

Diane Dimond January 13, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Twitter Pal MelanieEinstein writes:

“@DiDimond They don’t go to jail because they can afford high-priced attorneys with their ill-gotten gains.”

Diane Dimond January 13, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Twitter Pal Chrisahull writes:

” DiDimond” Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
~George Washington That’s Why!!” // “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” T. Jefferson

Diane Dimond January 13, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Twitter Pal TrialDivasS writes:

” @DiDimond I couldn’t agree more. Madoff did not do it by himself, even though he claimed he did.”

Diane Dimond January 13, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Twitter pal lilibalfour writes:

“RT @DiDimond Why don’t JPMorgan execs go to jail over their Madoff mess? ow.ly/swPDC THIS is why public trust is in the toilet!”

Diane Dimond January 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Twitter Pal xRobertTheBruce writes:

“@DiDimond DOJ will be on this about the same time they jump on fast and furious..in other words..never.”

Diane Dimond January 17, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Reader Hogan Williams writes:

“You are absolutely correct. If you have money you do not go to jail even for destroying millions of people lives.

I’m a 63 y/o Viet Nam vet who returned to civilian life with a substance abuse problem. It lasted until 1999 when I finally did something about it. Been in jail countless of times and I am ashamed of my past behavior .

I do what I can to help those who have also lost their way. It has always been the American way that you commit a crime you go to jail and pay your debt to society for that crime, get your life right and become a productive member of that same society that you had wronged. Am I correct or what? How long do you continue to pay if you do not have money?

Property crimes, I stole something, a car a truck, caught in the basement of a building, broke in a closed gas station. Those sort of things. I am not trying to minimize my wrongs, no. I’ve gotten some ethics since I got sober and was fired because I can now stand on some principles. I’m looking for a job and I cannot find one because I keep being told you have a criminal background. Not since 1995 have I been convicted of a crime and I went to jail for that.

I was talking to a friend of mine at an agency that I once worked at and he was telling me that the new person that he had hired had to be let go. She had an arrest 25 years ago for prostitution. Since that time, like myself, she has gone back to school and gotten a degree, is a certified substance abuse counselor but she can’t work at this agency because DCFS says she has a criminal background from 25 years ago.

When do we finish paying? We need a number like 5, 10, 15, 25 years, what?

Oh, but those people that made millions as a result of keeping quite about someone committing a crime that destroyed countless of lives, walk away free and KEEP THEIR JOBS. And they don’t even get to have a criminal background. Society continues to scream they had a criminal background, they had a criminal background, however, the people that murder the most people and steal the most money, never have a criminal past, NEVER.

You know, America, the country that I love, is beginning to resemble Nazi Germany prior to world war II. They are putting millions of (jews) Oh, my mistake, Blacks, in concentration camps , oops I mean prisons and making it where if you have got caught smoking weed, a blunt, a bag of anything you can’t get a job. This is to help fuel the new industrial complex called Privatization of the Prison system. Slave Labor. And you know we cannot have the CEO from Chase bank in that position.

You tell me what to do. I am open for suggestions.”

Your Fan

Diane Dimond January 17, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Huffington Post Reader Scott Bonn writes:

” Unlike street criminals, elite and white-collar criminals have a corporate shield to protect them and PR firms to fight their battles. Perhaps the greatest outrage of all is that when corporations are fined it is the public shareholders who pay the price through lost revenue and stock value. The corporate criminals go unscathed….”

Rod Wallace January 19, 2014 at 4:07 am

Your article “Why Don’t Corporate Executives Face Jail?” articulates clearly my arguments over the last 40 years with a wide variety of people throughout the US. The vast majority of these mistrust bankers. Yet bankers are never held accountable for committing crimes that result in people going to jail. This despite the fact that the magnitude of their thievery results in hardship inflicted on millions of people. Since I believe the majority of Americans don’t trust bankers why is so hard to pass laws that will punish bankers proportionate to their crime? A person who robs $10,000 from a bank goes to jail for 10 -20 years. Banks who steal millions and destroy people lives should be punished based on the magnitude of the theft. Fifty years to life seems appropriate. I suspect if this law were in place bankers would operate much differently. Keep up the good work. Perhaps you and others will be able to make a difference.

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