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Richard Larsen: The Administration’s Department of Injustice

May 19th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The unambiguous imagery of blindfolded Lady Justice holding the scales of impartiality aloft, idyllically characterizes our understanding of how American justice is expected to function. We expect it to be dispensed neutrally; blind to race, creed, socio-economic status, and political associations. Yet clearly this administration’s Department of Justice is blind in ways not represented by Lady Justice.

Ever since the near collapse of the crony-capitalistic system created more by Washington than by Wall Street, we’ve consistently heard from the administration that they were going to get “tough” on Wall Street, prosecute the perpetrators of the “fraud and corruption” that they insisted was endemic there, and hold “accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis.”

Yet, as stated in a revelatory article in Newsweek, due out this week, the administration and Attorney General Eric Holder have not “criminally charged or prosecuted a single top executive from any of the elite financial institutions thought responsible for the financial crash.” Is this blind justice, or simply being blind to justice?

Holder was explicit in his intent to prosecute those “responsible” for the mortgage market induced meltdown. Said he, “Mortgage, securities, and corporate fraud schemes have eroded the public’s confidence in the nation’s financial markets and have led to a growing sentiment that Wall Street does not play by the same rules as Main Street. Unscrupulous executives, Ponzi scheme operators, and common criminals alike have targeted the pocketbooks and retirement accounts of middle class Americans, and in many cases, devastated entire families’ futures. We will not allow these actions to go unpunished.”

In reality, that’s precisely what they’ve done. With no charges, no “perp walks” (other than Bernie Madoff whose Ponzi scheme collapsed with the mortgage market) and no prosecution of any top Wall Street executives, the administration proves by their actions that they are firmly ensconced in the pockets of the 1%, at the expense of the 99%.

Logically, there are only two possibilities for such recalcitrance in pursuing the instigators of all the “fraud and corruption” on Wall Street. The first is, perhaps all those financial titans were functioning legally under the complex web of crony-capitalistic excess, as allowed by Washington’s bizarre regulatory umbrella. Or those wizards of Wall Street have bought and paid for their financial “indulgences” with massive contributions into the campaign coffers of Holder’s boss. The Newsweek authors conclude it is the latter.

They also raise another aspect of the “hands off” policy of the DOJ. They point to the fact that most of those Wall Street executives, and their companies, are clients of the influential law firms that Holder and his top lieutenants worked at before joining the DOJ in 2009.

Just two months into the new administration, there was a meeting held at the White House with heads of 13 of the top banks and financial institutions. As reported by ABC News, “President Obama put it to the Big Finance executives” and told them in no uncertain terms, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” Here we are three years later, with no arrests, no prosecution, no criminal charges filed, but lots of campaign dollars flowing to the campaign war chest. It would appear the DOJ opted for not “making hay” of the bankers, but save them for their most useful purpose; to finance the president’s campaign.

The hypocrisy of the whole situation has outraged even elements of the left. Mike Gecan, an activist with the Industrial Areas Foundation, explained, “I’m from Chicago, I’ve seen this game played my whole life.”

The DOJ and the administration have not only rewarded Wall Street executives by saving them from the pitchforks, but they’ve also been rewarded with the lowest prosecution rates of corporate securities and bank fraud in years.

Department of Justice criminal prosecutions are at 20-year lows for corporate securities and bank fraud, based on data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data-gathering organization at Syracuse University. Newsweek reports that financial fraud prosecutions are “down 39 percent since 2003, and are just one third of what they were during the Clinton administration.”

If we are to believe what the administration has been telling us for the past few years, what happened in 2008 was the direct result of excessive greed, avarice, corruption, and fraud. And it led to what’s widely heralded as the most significant financial downturn since the Great Depression. But still, not a single criminal prosecution in sight.

Don’t believe for a second that the administration is looking out for the 99%. All the evidence indicates it is carefully protecting the 1%, in what could be the most heinous “pay to play” political episode ever in American history. Their version of “justice is blind” seems to indicate that they’re blind to the abuses of their contributors. As Newsweek refers to it, it’s “the Chicago Way writ large.”

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