Why haven’t any big bankers been prosecuted for their role in the housing crisis that led to the Great Recession?
These finance executives took part in “scandals that violate the most basic ethical norms,” as the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde put it last month, including illegal foreclosures, money laundering and the fixing of interest rate benchmarks. In fact, banking CEOs not only avoided prosecution but got average pay rises of 10 percent last year, taking home, on average, $13 million in compensation.
These “gentlemen” are among the leaders of the industry’s efforts to repeal, or water down, some of the tougher rules and regulations enacted in the Dodd-Frank legislation that was passed to prevent another crash. As usual, they’re swelling their ranks with the very people who helped to write that bill. More than two dozen federal officials have pushed through the revolving door to the private sector they once sought to regulate.
And then there are the lapdogs in Congress willfully collaborating with the financial industry. As the Center for Public Integrity put it recently, they are “Wall Street’s secret weapon,” a handful of representatives at the beck and call of the banks, eager to do their bidding. Jeb Hensarling is their head honcho. The Republican from Texas chairs the House Financial Services Committee, which functions for Wall Street like one of those no-tell motels with the neon sign. Hensarling makes no bones as to where his loyalties lie. “Occasionally we have been accused of trying to undermine aspects of Dodd-Frank,” he said recently, adding, with a chuckle, “I hope we’re guilty of it.” Guilty as charged, Congressman. And it tells us all we need to know about our bought and paid for government that you think it’s funny.
This essay is part of the show Too Big to Fail and Getting Bigger. Watch now »