James Dimon is the Chief Executive Office of J.P. Morgan Chase Co. At one time, J.P. Morgan was portrayed in the corporate media as the "good" bank which not only survived the economic meltdown of the last five years, but also thrived. Dimon was the golden boy of Wall Street and Washington. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi says Dimon was President Obama's favorite banker. Dimon is now in high level talks with the Justice Department trying to agree on how big a fine the company should have to pay for all the wrongdoing they engaged in which brought about the economic collapse devastating this nation. The Wall Street Journal reports Dimon offered to pay $3 billion to make all charges go away. Attorney General Eric Holder is said to have rejected the offer and suggested "possible" criminal charges. Dimon has allegedly upped his offer to $11 billion and some say could go much higher. ($30 billion says one source) Dimon doesn't care about the money. What he is trying to do is guarantee there will be no criminal charges against his bank. It should be an easy sell given past history.
In the five years since the fall of Lehman Brothers, Americans have been inundated with stories and accounts of theft, robbery, fraud and malfeasance by American banks and financial institutions which would have made the Godfather blush. (please read anything Taibbi has written on this subject) There isn't enough space here to give you the whole list, but Goldman Sachs, A.I.G., Citibank, Bear Stearns, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, Washington Mutual are just some of the firms who have paid fines or were complicit in actions which would land any individual in a federal prison. They get fined, but not one criminal charge. People lost their homes, livelihoods, jobs, even some of lives were lost because of what these 3-piece suit gangsters pulled off, and not one of them will ever be in a jumpsuit, cuffed and shackled while a passenger on Con-Air.
Holder, and his acolytes, continually repeat the same mantra...losing money on risky bets is not a crime. They claim they cannot find criminal statutes which will stick or that these companies violated. The law isn't clear. This is a murky area. We can't just go on a fishing expedition. These executives have rights. Please don't confuse the rush of insider trading convictions with Dimon and his henchman's actions. The architects of the worst economic disruption since 1929 have paid fines, sat in front of congressional committees, issued tepid apologies, but none of them has lost his or her freedom.
Let's take Holder at his word for a moment. If the law is too murky and there are no criminal statutes which will bring these robber barons to justice, what do we do? We have plenty of precedent. In the early 80's the crack cocaine epidemic hit New York. There too, law enforcement claimed it did not have the tools to combat this scourge. The result was the Rockefeller drug laws...a series of laws proscribing mandatory minimum terms of prison for even minor infractions. The laws were specifically tailored by the legislature to make it as easy as possible to get a conviction. The result was a doubling or tripling of prison populations and the weight of all this new law fell heavily on African American and Hispanic Americans. (These laws are finally being repealed or modified in New York after acknowledging the huge damage they did and the cost they imposed on taxpayers while not stemming the flow of drugs into the country.)
When the government couldn't find ways to arrest or convict members of organized crime, Congress passed the R.I.C.O. laws which allowed the government to lock someone up even if they couldn't prove they had committed a crime themselves. If they were part of an organized criminal conspiracy, they could be convicted and sent to prison. Even when police were unable to find a crime Al Capone committed, they were still able to get him on income tax evasion.
Yet, for five years we have been told no one on Wall Street broke a criminal law and there is no way to hold them responsible. Huh?
I sit here, as I write, I’m surrounded by people convicted of white collar crimes ranging from cheating Medicare to money laundering to drug dealing. No one among the 1,500 guests of the federal government here in Lompoc stole billions of dollars...no one stole tens of thousands of homes from average Americans...no one required trillions of taxpayer dollars to bail them out...no one caused unemployment to skyrocket and entire cities devastated economically...no one sold mortgage backed securities knowing they would fail and then betting against the same securities they sold to their clients...yet here they sit while the movers of Wall Street escape untouched, and if reports are to be believed, they are now engaging in the same behavior as before and banks are still too big to fail. (hell, they can’t even get the Volker rule written and Dodd/Frank has been castrated)
Why hasn't Congress passed new criminal statutes to criminalize this behavior? Why hasn't there been a stampede to the well of the Senate by members with bills to go after these people and their actions? Why haven't members of Congress run for re-election on a platform of getting tough on Wall Street crime? Where are they now? Why are there no new Rockefeller laws for the financial industry? You and I both know why. When the criminals are black or brown or poor or small financial potatoes, they are ripe targets for politicians looking to be tough on crime. They don't contribute to political campaigns and they don't hire lobbyists and they don't socialize with their fellow congressional millionaires. There is no incentive for members of Congress to give the Justice Department new criminal tools to go after the 1%. It's not smart politics.
The next time you go to a town hall meeting, or encounter your member of Congress, and they tout their credentials about being tough on crime and protecting their constituents from "them", ask how many new criminal laws they have introduced or sponsored to "deter" the criminals on Wall Street from doing it again. I guarantee you it is the quickest, most surefire way to reduce them to a deafening silence.