Too Big To Jail Is Here To Stay

Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General who claimed that prosecuting banks for crimes poses a risk to the financial sector and so corrupt bankers are “too big to jail” has lost his job:

MARTIN SMITH: You gave a speech before the New York Bar Association. And in that speech, you made a reference to losing sleep at night, worrying about what a lawsuit might result in at a large financial institution.


MARTIN SMITH: Is that really the job of a prosecutor, to worry about anything other than simply pursuing justice?

LANNY BREUER: Well, I think I am pursuing justice. And I think the entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice. But in any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand.

But the man who put him there, and who is ultimately responsible for the policy — the Attorney General himself — is here to stay.


Simon Johnson notes:

Attorney General Eric Holder expressed similar views in the context of discussing why more severe charges weren’t brought against Zurich-based UBS AG last year for manipulating the London interbank offered rate. And Neil Barofsky, a onetime senior prosecutor and former inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program that administered the bank bailouts, provided a scathing assessment of Justice Department policy.

The Justice Department likes to quote Thomas Jefferson: “The most sacred of the duties of government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens,” a line that appears in its latest budget documents.

This sentiment is hardly consistent with saying that some companies have characteristics that put them above the law. Jefferson himself was very worried about the concentrated power of financiers — he would have seen today’s problems much more clearly than do Holder and Breuer.

Fundamentally, Obama’s continued support for Holder illustrates that Obama is still committed to the policy of holding financiers to a lesser standard of justice than other citizens.

The continued failure to implement even the Volcker rule — let alone a Glass-Steagall-style separation between retail and investment banking — illustrates that Obama is committed to letting bailed-out banks continue to operate in the risky manner that led to the crisis. So does the total failure to ensure a level playing field for retail investors in a market now totally dominated by algorithms.

The big banks continue to ride roughshod over the American people with the complicity of the political class. Too Big to Jail is an affront to the Constitution, an affront to the Bill of Rights, an affront to those like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Lysander Spooner, Frederick Douglas and all those who at various times crusaded to make equality before the law a reality in America.

The only sensible way forward is that lawbreakers on Wall Street must be prosecuted in the same way as other lawbreakers. That means that Eric Holder and all others associated with Too Big To Jail must lose their jobs.

But I doubt that will happen any time soon.

71 thoughts on “Too Big To Jail Is Here To Stay

  1. “Eric Holder and others” will lose their jobs only when the voters pay attention to their and their children’s future. We all can help with that education task!

  2. This is the kind of problem that will eventually take care of itself, probably sooner rather than later. Financial and commercial life, like long-term romance and a lot of other things, are strongly dependent on trust. When persons or systems become fundamentally untrustworthy, they have to be abandoned — and so they are.

  3. I have been trying for 3 years for the authorities to investigate possible breaches of the Corporations law. It has go to the point of emailing key Politicians and then the next step, the Ombudsmen (Independent of Government Auditor and investigator)

    If I give up, they will get away with their behaviour. Why have laws if it is not upheld? Why waste time writing legislation?

    I am losing faith in our institutions and our legal system.

    • “I am losing faith in our institutions and our legal system.”

      This is the problem. People believe in these fairy tales that institutions are going to provide [fill in the blank], when this has NEVER been the case.

      There are times when institutions do a better job than other times, but EVERYBODY knows how The System has always worked. Has there every been a honest political system, a fair judicial system, a benevolent banking system, so on and so forth?

      Seeing things how they really are does not make one negative [as some assert], but instead, allows one to see things are they truly are. The American founding fathers understood that investing too much power in institutions was the short road to Hell. This is why all corporations were non-profit ONLY and had to be reviewed every so often and could be easily revoked.

      The structure of the modern corporate-state is doomed to failure by its very design. Only people’s desire to live at Disneyland presents them from seeing this. It is the very structure of society that must change [and will]. Otherwise, its only altering the direction that the funnel that diverts large amounts of labor-value produced that can be manipulated by the billions of dollars that bride and corrupt the political and legal systems.

      • Beautiful, Imp old friend, except I suggest that:

        “EVERYBODY” does NOT know (recognize) “how the system has always worked”; Aziz and we posters currently are the exception, not the rule.

        “Seeing things as they really are” SHOULD not “make one negative”; we must guard against pessimism.

        The “corporate-state” is not “DOOMED to failure”; it will fall only when overthrown (peacefully, we hope) by We The awakened/aroused People.

        • “EVERYBODY” does NOT know (recognize) “how the system has always worked”; Aziz and we posters currently are the exception, not the rule.”

          I believe that deep-down, EVERYBODY does know. Otherwise, how could people possibly put up with the results?

          “Seeing things as they really are” SHOULD not “make one negative”; we must guard against pessimism.

          Positive/negative is simply different sides of the same coin. If it is not positive or negative, then what could it possible be? Reality can not be qualified.


          The “corporate-state” is not “DOOMED to failure”; it will fall only when overthrown (peacefully, we hope) by We The awakened/aroused People.

          All systems fail, just as all things knowable come and go, are born and die. This system will be replaced when an alternative becomes viable.

      • What do you suggest? I gather all the people involved in a good old fashioned Russian Bunya (Steam House), and offer them some “friendly” advice?

        That is not my nature, and I try to use all noble avenues of redress.

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  5. There are so many alternative ideas, and confusion about what would work better and instead…that no alternatives emerge. The Austrian School seems to be gaining many followers but is it better at explaining the economy? The God of free markets in theory works great, in reality it could just as easily lead to the American Wild West.

    Bankers have got too much power and they are able to hold governments and taxpayers hostage. Can they be regulated and would this work?

    • Jaime – now that was a funny and very good video! Thanks for posting it. Exactly what Breuer would have been thinking in his mind!

  6. Can one of you really smart people on this blog explain to me, a very simple man, why people are so incredibly attached to the chains [institutions] that exist solely to squeeze every last bit of human dignity out of each one of us?

    • Culture changes slowly. Slavery, serfdom, and other class systems were the dominant modes of social organization among humans for several thousand years. Capitalist industrialism began to break these systems up, but as Nietzsche said, ‘God is in the grammar’; the notions of mastery and slavery are deeply embedded in our language, our culture, and our psyches. I call it ‘the shadow of slavery’ and hope it is not embedded in our genes as well.

      • I think it is more than a shadow of slavery. We work for a pittance to pay off a mortgage which costs the equivalent of 3 houses, pay taxes, fines and premiums and then get 0% interest on our savings while our children and grandchildren will be working till they drop to pay off these debts funding wars. Max Keiser calls it neofeudalism and I think he is right. Unfortunately, most people are so financially illiterate they have no idea what is happening while the baby-boomers are happy to be alive and enjoying their large houses which are stealing the jobs and opportunities from their children and grandchildren who will have to sort out the mess. But I am not pessimistic, things are changing and once the ball gets rolling many of the issues discussed here will be sorted more fairly.

        As stated before in previous posts, education is the key!

        • People do have choices, though. I’d be lying if I said I had lived like a slave or a serf. I have certainly managed to get myself in a certain amount of personal trouble, but that was by choice. I think the conditions of the last fifty or sixty years, at least, were such that American working-class people could have bought or built their own means of production, and freed themselves from the need to maintain and serve a special class of owners and exploiters. But they didn’t want to. I spent some time as a kind of amateur union organizer, and for the most part they won’t even join a union, much less form cooperative businesses. Some will go into business, of course, but mostly as isolated individuals or very small groups, and often intending to sell out for the right price as soon as possible. I see a lot of choice in that. The choice is usually to be subservient and to stay with the herd. I don’t have much direct experience of other countries, but I’d guess many of them operate in a similar way. How else can we explain how destructive sociopaths take over whole countries and bring enormous suffering and loss upon the people they control? The two possible explanations of this failure of will and reason that I can think of are (1) the cultural ‘shadow of slavery’ and (2) that we humans just have bad genes, are a mistake of evolution, and are inherently doomed. I prefer the first.

    • The rules of the “Game” suggest you must use the “Institutional Avenues” for hearing out your redress. The “Gate Keepers” i.e. Judges, determine the outcome.

      So what is the solution? Revolution and then install “compliant Judges”?

      But then the powers that be, will be disgruntled.

      Thus it is a battle of wills. Perhaps there are Gods and Plods.

  7. I believe Wachovia CEO Robert Steel bought Wachovia’s stock in a breach of trust, confidence and his fiduciary duty to shareholders, US taxpayers and our legal system, while in possession of material, nonpublic information.

    On July 9, 2008, Robert Steel became president and CEO of Wachovia after working for Goldman Sachs from 1976 to 2004 and the US Treasury under former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson from October 10, 2006 until July 9, 2008. Mr. Steel was “the principal adviser to the secretary on matters of domestic finance and led the department’s activities regarding the U.S. financial system, fiscal policy and operations, governmental assets and liabilities, and related economic matters,” according to Wikipedia’s biography. Mr. Steel most likely knew about other firm’s borrowings via his time spent at the U.S. Treasury Department.

    In 2008, Mr. Steel personally purchased 1,000,000 shares of Wachovia’s stock as the company’s undisclosed Federal Reserve Term Auction Facility (TAF) borrowing reached $12.5 billion.

    After not reporting TAF loans, Wachovia’s CEO wrote “I, Robert K. Steel, certify that: I have reviewed this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2008 of Wachovia Corporation; Based on my knowledge, this report does not contain any untrue statement of a material fact or omit to state a material fact necessary to make the statements made, in light of the circumstances under which such statements were made, not misleading with respect to the period covered by this report…” on October 30, 2008.

    Mr. Steel was at least aware of Wachovia’s Federal Reserve loans since July, 2012, if not the undisclosed loans to multiples of other financial institutions, and no one wants to do anything about it.

    If Mr. Steel is not charged by July 2012, he will get away with it, as the statute of limitations will run out.

    George Hartzman
    Greensboro, North Carolina

    • “fiduciary duty to shareholders” What is that these days. And the Statute of Limitations is a convenient system. They drag their feet to answer clear questions, Public Prosecutors have competing interests and prioritise. Conveniently I may add. They are all complicit.

      This is the game they all play. The only thing I know is in criminal matters “Statute of Limitations” do not apply.

      Some say Kangaroo Courts and anecdotal evidence is a travesty of natural justice, but when Jurors are educated people, sometimes where there is smoke, there is fire, as the Jurors’s fingers get burnt by the smoke.

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  9. GH’s report on Robert Steel’s journey from Goldman Sachs to Treasury Dept. to private bankster is a classic case of Conflict of Interest. It is a “smoking gun” so passionately sought by Democrats within the Bush administration. Where was the SEC and Dept. of Justice, either Bush’s or Obama’s? The agency overseeing Futures trading also has a long record of derilection of duty, escpecially in silver manipulation. Guys, “It ain’t as bad as you think — it’s worse!”

      • What do you mean by rich? There are those, who by their own inventiveness, good luck, or hard work, have gained wealth [through their own labor], and good for them!

        But for those who make money off of other people, I agree 1000%!

        Any economic system that uses people like animals is depraved, immoral, and inherently unstable [unsustainable].

        • Come on Imp. You had a natural gift of intelligence, and you easily passed University (Just like me) so it was not all blood sweat and sacrifice was it. So why charge so much to heal the sick?

          But I know a man of your calibre has worked for Sans Medicos Frontereis? Correct?

          You are as guilty as a Banker.

          I on the other hand save people money and deny the Government the revenue they get from incompetent accountants. This places budgetary strain on them, and prevents war.

        • Buddy (Feb 04 @21:39 & Feb 05 @ 01:20) and Imp (Feb 04 @ 21:51 & Feb 05 @ 01;47):

          1. Buddy: I hope these two posts — unlike your open-minded, tolerant (of views not of principles, of course) earlier posts — mean only that you had a bad day. (a) I’m sure you realize that ALL rich men are not immoral or liars or cheaters or robbers. (b) We don’t know what Dr. Impermanence charges, but he probably has to comply with government (Medicare/Medicaid) price schedules. Please don’t call him “as guilty as a banker” OR send me your evidence so I can quit calling him “old friend”.

          2. Imp: (a) Please explain what “making money off other people” means — customers, employers, employees, partners? — and, other than Communist, etc., what is an “economic system that uses people like animals”? (b) How do you justifying accusing all CPA’s of “selling out the people of this planet”?

          Guys, we are all on the same side, and mostly on the same page!

        • “You are as guilty as a Banker.”

          BR, this really isn’t about me, but if you would be interested, I could tell you about myself. I don’t really wish to bore the other folks. But let me get back to you on that one as I am off to get my Ferrari out of the shop. 🙂

          “2. Imp: (a) Please explain what “making money off other people” means — customers, employers, employees, partners? — and, other than Communist, etc., what is an “economic system that uses people like animals”? (b) How do you justifying accusing all CPA’s of “selling out the people of this planet”?”

          (a) Making money off of other people means taking another’s labor value produced as your own. Any economic system that does the above is using people like animals, that is, simply supplying them with subsistence wages in order to sustain life in order to work another day.

          (b) The accountants that work for the corporate world and all the governments know better than anybody all the cheating, stealing and fraud that goes down.

  10. First, we must recognize and accept our “system” is corrupt. Politicians always want or need money. Banks, as well as major corporations, have money earmarked for renting influence. Given the hypocracy of politicians, influence is not purchased, only rented. Banks are known for significant political contributions to both parties as they want all bases covered. Money talks. The Justice Department, the Attorney General and even the President is not immune to selling influence just like congress people of both parties. How else can John Corzine’s freedom from prosecution be explained? Further, the revolving door between big banks and government people is well established. Try to count the number of former Goldman Sachs people now ensconced in powerful government positions.

    The point is the banks are not too big to fail nor are they too big to prosecute. The banks have acquired their freedom from personal and corporate prosecution the old fashioned way. They bought it, the same way they bought the stimulus funding and the present $45 billion of mortgage backed securities the Fed is buying from them monthly. Wanna bet those will have some failures which the Fed will eat.

    Finland and Estonia let their badly managed, money losing banks fail without failouts and three years later, both economies are growing and prospering much better than ours.

    He who has the gold rules and the banks have the gold.

  11. That was a great investigation done by Frontline – “The Untouchables”. Well worth the 53 minutes to watch it.

    Lanny Breuer, Steven Fagell and Eric Holder – all of them came from the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. Coincidence? How do you think they got their positions in the first place? These guys have defended white collar criminals. They are their friends. They’re not about to turn around and bite them.

    Lanny Breuer:

    “Prior to becoming Assistant Attorney General, Breuer was a
    partner in the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling LLP and the
    co-chairman of its white-collar defense and investigations practice group.
    Breuer was best known for his work representing the subjects of congressional
    investigations. He represented the University of California in an investigation
    of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Moody’s Investor Service in the wake of
    Enron’s collapse, Halliburton/KBR in a hearing conducted by the House Committee
    on Oversight and Government Reform, Roger Clemens,[1] Yahoo!, and the Special
    Litigation Committee of the Board of Directors of Hewlett Packard.”

    Lanny Breuer’s right-hand man, Steven Fagell:

    “Covington & Burling LLP is pleased to announce that Steven Fagell, most recently the Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, has rejoined the firm as a partner. Mr. Fagell will practice in the firm’s litigation group, with a particular
    focus on white collar defense, internal investigations, and securities litigation
    and enforcement. He will be resident in Covington’s Washington office.”

    Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General:

    “From 2001 until he became Attorney General, Holder worked
    as an attorney at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., representing
    clients such as Merck and the National Football League.”

  12. Someone else who helps people with their fraudulent mortgages in the U.S. posted this:

    “Covington & Burling is the law firm for MERS, the fake electronic registration system that facilitated the fraud. Covington & Burling attorneys wrote the letter justifying MERS business model that was trotted out to the banking community. This letter was banking’s “Get out of Jail Free” card.”

    MERS allowed banks to get around registering documents in Land Title offices.

    Covington & Burling – making good things happen!

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  14. My previoua ost contained a finger fault brain failure. The two countries cited that sis not bail out their banks and nw have prospering economies are ICELAND and Estonia, not Finland and Estonia. I regret te error.

  15. All Bankers have to be removed from thier positions as well as their Boards. If they took public funds they owe us. We must remove their Corporate welfare they recieve. Via Subsidies and Handouts. the removal these entitlements will enable the market to be more efficient. The weak fall and the strong survive.

    • People put up with bankers because these vermin make it possible for people to check out of their lives, instead consuming themselves with their addictive substance of choice [drugs, alcohol, sex, food, electronics, etc.].

      People will seemingly do anything to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives, including allowing a miniscule percentage of complete low-life’s to steal them blind, deaf, and dumb.

      Go figure.

      • I work with a man in his late 30s, 2 children under 10. I think he has inherited some money so ‘owns’ 2 houses, he rents one house out and this pays the mortgage on both houses. He thinks he is doing great financially. he may not be typical of others but because we live in a complex social hiearchy, people tend to accept the bankers at the apex of the social pyramid because they also feel as if they are better off than the people below them. In short they help to screw over the people below them….and the fear that one might drop into a lower social class is always there. The lower social class acts as a motivator…’I do not want to end up like that’… I must continue to play the game and do the best I can to out do others.

    • So, Buddy Rojek, CPA, perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us as to how’s and why’s that your brethren CPA’s have completely sold-out the peoples of this planet, thereby allowing these depraved bankers and pathetic governments to get away with their sorcery.

      • It is called Mark to Fantasy and you ensure that your “professional judgement” “professional estimate” marks assets to a value that reflects the value “But for” the inconvenient economic market situation faced by your CEO.

        Why do you think I write this stuff? I don’t have to impress a client or CEO boss anymore. I am enjoying myself calling these criminals for what they are.

      • If you recall all this GFC carnage occurred when mark to market accounting was introduced. People did not like this so the Shorters caused chaos and as a result it was suspended.

        I was an Arthur Andersen Auditor, and trust me, if you dispute the clients assumptions too heavily you will get a stern look from your boss. Mr Arthur Andersen would be turning in his grave. The worst thing was AA became a LLC, not a Partnership. It is a disgrace to his good name. You should have seen the AA Bible (Audot Manual) on Audit methodology. It was brilliant, a shame it was not followed. I still have a copy. If the principles in this Bible were followed, the GFC would not have occurred.

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  18. That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

  19. Most people have been mis-educated about where wealth comes from, and even what it is, so they don’t know how to get it, protect it, or what prevents it or kills it. Add in that every one wants the magic of ‘something for nothing’ and we get a real mess. There is a huge industry (politics primarily, but also finance, and to some extent entertainment) built on this smoke. The trouble is that they forget (or never knew) that the only way for me to get something for nothing is for you to get nothing for something.

  20. So what does this have to do with the need for a national health insurance plan brought on by the fact health care has become too expensive to keep people alive unless they are blessed with good health insurance from their employer? The article appears to say the government must stay out of the lives of its citizens which must sound good to libertarians but, depending upon how that would be interpreted, could mean that republicans win and all the poor must die early.

    • JN: You should win a prize for the most false premises, trigger words, non sequiturs, etc. in a short paragraph. If you can grasp that doctors, nurses, technicians, lab workers, janitors, laundries, equipment purveyors, utilities, etc. need to be compensated, the optimization question becomes: how best? But WHOSE best? Obama the socialist’s is expanded government control, regardless of quality/cost/efficiency. Mine is what’s best for my family. The poor’s is charity that works and does not create defiance of healthy habits nor permanent dependency nor federal bankruptcy — on all of which Obamacare fails.

      In the US, the federal government is forbidden to provide healthcare. Constitutional amendments could straightforwardly eliminate this and similar barriers to “nanny” government; however, “liberal” (big government) interests are fearful of allowing the people to discover that they can, through their state legislatures*, limit federal government to “just powers from the consent of the governed”.

      * Are “the powers that be” — vested politicians, lobbyists, race and class agitators (“Community Organizers”), unions, academia, connected banks and other businesses, environmental profiteers, etc. — WISE to shut out grass roots and state political activity? Apparently so! In contrast to Washington D.C., a big majority of states now have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors.

      • Footnotes to my post above:

        1. See Article V of the US Constitution.
        2. See Amendments I through X to the US Constitution, especially X.

  21. Allegedly Republican majorities at the state level are due in large part to gerrymandering. That’s what they tell me, anyway.

    The ACA is not socialism. It is a cohesion of the ostensible, visible government and certain corporations at the highest level, due to the fact that the medical insurance system and the medical establishment could no longer force any more money out of the public though existing means, and required government coercion to raise their revenues. I do not see any mechanism in it to limit or reduce prices. I believe resistance to it at the state level is a sham; the insurance companies’ handle, something like 1/7th of the GDP, is enormous and I am sure money could be found to buy any state government needed. Like the military and many other government projects, the medical-industrial complex is swallowing up enormous amounts of freshly printed money and making it disappear while producing little of value. It is interesting to speculate on how and when this will all unravel.

  22. Anarc: Disagree on credibility of alleged (by whom?) gerrymandering claim. Redistricting is done by state governments; either party must have control BEFORE they can make it more favorable.

    Someone should provide a modern redefinition of “socialism”. As you describe, Obamacare is a federal government-forced public-private system to suck more money, as well as federal government control, into healthcare. Politics — also government, but with significant private influence (bribes of money and votes) — set a new record of corruption in the passage of Obamacare, rushed through when* both houses of congress were Democrat controlled after the 2008 Obama landslide: no Republicans or press in deliberations; zero Republican “yeas”; strong arm/bribery of some reluctant Democratic senators; leadership admitting/bragging that no member had read or could have read the multi-thousand-page bill; exemptions to favored employers; etc. There indeed is no price/cost reduction to patients, employers or government! Costs are already skyrocketing above dishonest “estimates”.

    * They played smart partisan politics, as usual: two years later, voters gave Republicans control of the House and reduced Democrat’s majority in the Senate.

    • Addendum on Obamacare: Democratic leadership also joked/bragged about the Constitutionality of the bill, whose centerpiece ultimately was indeed ruled unconstitutional unanimously by the Supreme Court.

  23. As to the gerrymandering, I believe Republicans perceived a weakness in the Democratic Party organization which is due to the monarchicalism of big-ticket ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ leaders, activists and pundits: they weren’t paying attention to the states because they concentrate on the Federal government, especially the presidency. An effort at the state level gave the Republicans enough state houses to make a big difference That’s just a guess but the pattern fits.

    I think the original concept of socialism, ‘the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers’, is a valid and modern-enough idea. In theory this might be accomplished by means of ownership and control through a remote government, but only if it were actually democratic, which means the will and interests of everybody, not just certain people, were involved in it. But clearly we don’t know how to do that — we can observe that we don’t in our own governments, which are plutocratic most of the time. Ownership and control of the means of production by government and combined corporations controlled by elites is in accord with fascist theory, but fascism is a hot word so one can’t use it without getting people upset. The ACA seems to me to fit the f-word pretty neatly, however. Unfortunately people are being blackmailed into supporting it because the choice they have been given is between getting priced out of the medical care system completely, and the ACA.

    • Gerrymandering: As I recall, legislatures and governors of the 50 states were fairly evenly divided between Ds and Rs after the 2008* elections. The big shift to Rs came in the 2010 elections and held (increased?) in the 2012 elections.

      Socialism, Communism, fascism: Examples of totalitarian government are many and varied. The defining characteristic of a government remains TOP-DOWN vs. BOTTOM-UP. Per Jefferson’s “eloquent pen”: “All MEN are created equal … and are endowed by their Creator with … unalienable RIGHTS … That to secure these rights, GOVERNMENTS are instituted (by) men, deriving their just POWERS from the consent of the governed” [emphasis mine]. Our local “tea party”, like most others, asks allegiance only to Constitutional Limited

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