Nearly four years after being elected in the midst of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, President Barack Obama has still done nothing to prosecute senior banking and investment executives who presided over the economic fiasco. No one expected the Wall Street President Bush, especially in his last year, to fight the money-making enterprises here in America, but a lot of people did expect Barack Obama to do something. Alas, it was not to be.
Not one of the major figures involved in the sub-prime mortgage and credit-default swap crisis has been brought to trial or currently sits in a jail cell. At a White House press conference in October of 2011, Obama claimed that the reason for the lack of prosecution was that much of the Wall Street actions were legal at the time.
“A lot of that stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal, it was just immoral, or inappropriate, or reckless,” said Obama. He then passed the buck to the Attorney General Eric Holder, who hasn’t done a thing either.
Obama echoed that opinion in a December 2011 “60 Minutes” interview in which he said, “Some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street — in some cases some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street — wasn’t illegal. That’s exactly why we had to change the laws.”
Glenn Greenwald, fresh off releasing the paperback version of “With Liberty and Justice for Some,” appeared on Democracy Now! today to talk about the Patriot Act and banking and securities fraud, and addressed Obama’s lack of prosecutorial action.
“There has been zero legal criminal accountability from the financial crisis, and that’s the reason that this behavior continues. It’s exactly because these executives knew that they could take these huge risks, and even break laws and pay no real price,” said Greenwald.
“It’s not just a travesty of justice that we haven’t punished them for past transgressions,” added Greenwald. ”The real danger is that we’re continuing to send a signal to the world’s most powerful financial actors that they don’t have any fear of criminal accountability when they commit these obvious crimes.”
He also noted that former New York Attorney General and Governor Elliot Spitzer said that prosecuting senior banking and investment executives isn’t hard, it’s just not being done.
If it’s not hard, then why isn’t it being done? The obvious answer is that Obama doesn’t want to create the perception that he is anti-Wall Street. He is already viewed with some suspicion in Wall Street corridors; and to go after Wall Street the way Spitzer once did would be political suicide, especially with the 2012 election.
The securities and exchange industry has donated $3.5 million to Obama’s campaign, placing at number six amongst the most lavish donors—surely that money, combined with any past campaign contributions, is helping fend off any criminal prosecutions from the Obama camp.