May I introduce to you my hero for the day: Jed S. Rakoff of the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Yesterday, Rakoff said what we all know: the government, our government, is not serious about holding people accountable for the robbery and greed and incompetence that led to the financial collapse, costing millions of people their jobs and obliterating trillions of dollars in wealth. As Rakoff said, it's all a show.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is trying to ram through a settlement with Citibank that would let the monstrous bank slide with a slap on the wrist. Rakoff is not pleased and isn't buying the capitulation on the part of the government:
Yet the judge made it clear during an hourlong hearing in a crowded courtroom that he had serious concerns about how the commission reached such settlements — and whether they were tough enough.
“Doesn’t the S.E.C. have an interest in what the truth is?” Judge Rakoff asked, in reference to the commission’s longstanding practice of not forcing a defendant to admit any wrongdoing when settling a case.
Matthew T. Martens, a senior lawyer at the S.E.C., said that the government believed that the public knew the truth about Citigroup’s conduct because the government’s lawsuit laid out its claims against the bank.
“Last time I checked, correct me if I’m wrong, anyone can make an allegation,” said Judge Rakoff. “The mere fact that you say it’s so does not make it so unless it’s proved.”[emphasis added]
The answer to Judge Rakoff's question is NO. The Administration, and virtually every elected official in both parties, has ZERO interest in finding out what the truth is--though, we know what the truth is--and even less interest in holding anyone in any serious position accountable.
Part of that is just about business, to paraphrase Don Corleone: it's about campaign contributions and not wanting to put in jail--which is where these people belong--many of the underwriters of the political electoral system.
The government goes after the little fish, mucking around with insider trading cases, which, while deplorable, pale in comparison to the damage done by the CEOs and leaders of Wall Street.
The SEC lets off J.P. Morgan with a wrist slap fine. Pathetic.
Even though we know of a vast conspiracy and crime laid out by Sen. Carl Levin in his investigation of Goldman Sachs where he found, "...a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing"--the vast conspiracy goes unpunished other than a measly fine.
And, now, in the dock is Citibank, gleefully ready to accept a miniscule fine and let its former and current executives skate--particularly Robert Rubin who I have argued may have committed perjury but certainly was at the center of Citibank's role in the massive financial collapse.
Let me give the last word to Judge Rakoff:
On Wednesday, the judge criticized the $95 million penalty against the bank, pointing out that the S.E.C. estimated investors’ total losses on the mortgage deal at $700 million.
“So the net effect of this is that you’re only returning a small fraction of what the investors lost, yes?” Judge Rakoff asked the S.E.C. lawyer.
Later in the hearing, the judge teased Brad S. Karp, the lawyer for Citigroup, about the penalty amount.
“I won’t be cute and ask what percentage of Citigroup’s net worth is $95 million because I do not have a microscope with me.”[emphasis added]