Country Club Sopranos

American banks are on a massive crime spree. Obama and Romney hope you won’t notice.

Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer understands their predicament — somewhat. As his state's attorney general, Spitzer was the last major politician to launch a sustained assault on financial crime. He, too, believes that Wall Street has become analogous to the Mafia.

"Look, you organize things in a cartel structure very similar to what the Mob did," says Spitzer. "I think it's also the continuity of the fraud and the pervasiveness."

Yet Spitzer, now host of Viewpoint on Current TV, knows firsthand how difficult it is to drill a multi-billion-dollar crime family. Just like Mafia dons, CEOs are insulated from direct involvement — or may not even be aware of the schemes. Moreover, it's often harder to bring cases that simply pick off henchmen.

Longtime prosecutor and Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey: "The real theft was on Wall Street… All of the people who ran the scams have their big houses and their airplanes and they’re laughing."
wikimedia commons
Longtime prosecutor and Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey: "The real theft was on Wall Street… All of the people who ran the scams have their big houses and their airplanes and they’re laughing."
"Retired criminal" Sam Antar, who now trains the IRS and FBI how to bust corporate looters: “It’s almost like stealing a billion dollars with a pencil is not as bad. You have a lesser chance of going to jail than if you mug somebody on the streets of New York.”
Monika Golon
"Retired criminal" Sam Antar, who now trains the IRS and FBI how to bust corporate looters: “It’s almost like stealing a billion dollars with a pencil is not as bad. You have a lesser chance of going to jail than if you mug somebody on the streets of New York.”

"Juries don't like holding mid-level people accountable when the top people are getting off," says Spitzer.

Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey doesn't buy the excuses.

Blakey may be America's most storied organized-crime lawyer. He's a former federal prosecutor and author of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — better known as RICO — the cudgel used to pound the Mafia and corrupt labor unions. It allows prosecutors to charge entire organizations for a continuing pattern of criminality — exactly what the banks are doing.

Back in the 1980s, Rudy Giuliani used the law to take down Romney's pal Michael Milken. Yet prosecutors have been reticent to use it against corporations ever since.

"I am livid that nobody has thought about it," says Blakey. "I am livid that there are all these civil settlements."

He notes that the feds have a long history of taking on seemingly invincible foes, from Standard Oil to Big Tobacco: "What's changed that they could get these convictions and we can't now?"

After all, Blakey argues, corporate criminals are easier to slay. When you subpoena their records, they'll actually produce them. When Blakey was prosecuting the Teamsters, their books would suddenly go up in flames.

Blakey sees bankers at the bottom of the organized-crime gene pool — their schemes simple and obvious.

"They designed a fraud cookie cutter, and all of these guys have been running comparable scams," he says. "The variation between scam to scam is minor, and none of them are particular imaginative."

But the problem isn't Attorney General Holder, the professor asserts; it's the battery of lawyers beneath him. Prosecutors prize their win-loss records like starting pitchers. For them, it's much better to win a weak settlement than potentially lose a real fight.

In other words, if justice were a bar brawl, the feds would seek out the little guy on crutches.

The rampage continues

In May, SunTrust was caught working the same mortgage scam as Wells Fargo. It charged more than 20,000 black and Hispanic customers higher interest rates and fees than white clients with the same credit profiles. Price to make the problem go away: $21 million.

A month later, ING paid a $619 million settlement for violating international sanctions and anti-terrorist laws. It spent a decade providing "state sponsors of terror and other sanctioned entities with access to the U.S. financial system," Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at the time.

In July, Capital One was caught luring customers into buying credit-card protection "they didn't understand, didn't want or in some cases couldn't even use," said the feds. The company paid $210 million in fines and refunds.

In September, Discover was nabbed running the same scam on 3.5 million customers. The company spent $214 million to make its sins vanish.

For those of you scoring at home: Four major crimes against America. Millions of victims. Zero executives jailed.

"If there are no consequences," asks Sam Antar, "what incentive do I have to not be a criminal?"

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help

So, the significant difference between a crook and the too big to fail financial institutions is that a crook may have to pay restitution; whereas, the too big to fail institutions may have to pay a fine.


It sounds like the banks believe the fines are simple a "cost of doing business as usual". 



Yeah, Holder would love to do more prosecutions, but it's just sooooooo hard.


I call bulls#$t on that.



Posted By Neil Garfield LIVINGLIES ON OCTOBER 31,2012


Editor's Comment: Following up with the offensive strategy and the concept of attacking every weak point in the pretender lender's strategies, Fagan went after Wells Fargo on the seemingly innocuous motion for the Judge to take Judicial notice of several documents.

Besides the obvious fact that Judicial notice is narrowly construed to allow the FACT that a document was RECORDED (and not as proof of the matters asserted in such documents), Fagan took the offensive and essentially argued that Wells was trying to win a non-judicial foreclosure (in court, which is an oxymoron) using proof that could not be accepted in a judicial foreclosure.

His argument and his citations are right on point. The moral of this story is that if you keep the faith and realize that this entire foreclosure mess is just one part of the securitization scam, then you arrive at the inescapable conclusion that the homeowners should win, not just delay the foreclosures. Once you know you should win, it is easier to take the offensive and start thinking about the cases in a different way.

The question is not just "how do I protect my client" but also how do I win this case."

Read the documents below and you'll see how Fagan artfully slices up the Wells Motion for Judicial Notice and how the Court concluded correctly that Wells can't get away with violating the rules of evidence simply by slipping documents in through the back door.

It looks to me like we are turning the corner here. Deny and Discover has been getting a lot of traction. Stopa has surprised pretender lenders with summary judgment granted in favor of the borrowers and Fagan, is picking apart Wells Fargo. A fellow I know recently said to me "if you can make it bleed, you can kill it." He was referring to foreclosures.


Who says crime doesn't pay?  It pays pretty good for JP Morgan's Jamie "scumsack"  Dimon, who brings down $24 million per year plus stock options, perks, and any other tax dodge he can think of. These crooks, after getting bailed out with OUR tax money, continue to bend Americans over a barrel and give it to them good and hard.   Or how about John "the slime" Corzine, who stole over 1.6 billion of client money only to be addressed as "honorable" by congress.   I'd hate to be in these crooks' shoes when the Greater Depression hits.   Think Mussolini.


I will never understand why so many continue to grovel at the feet of these people. We speak of them as "job creators" as if daring to rein them in would put us all in abject destitution. But what do we risk with better regulation? Could they really pull up roots and take their bounty elsewhere? Honest question: could they conduct business like this anywhere else in the world? How is it that we have come to think we have no leverage here? And while there is no doubt that Democrats have much to answer for on this, the Republican Party is so completely devoid of any moral compass that they actually see no crime in any of this. Obama and Holder deserve much criticism. But Democrats, when pressed, know full well that all of this is so very, very wrong. Republican leadership will never put a stop to this.


 @Anse They gained so much living in this country but do everything they can to not give anything back. They threaten to leave, but there is no where else they could make their money like the U.S. When they threaten to leave, they are admitting that they are here to make money and nothing more. People really need to stop gargling on the balls of the rich in the hope that they spew out a few pennies their way.

Houston Concert Tickets