Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bill Black on the Most Ironic Sentence of the Financial Crisis

Bill Black takes down claims of a “victory for the government in its aggressive effort to hold banks accountable for their role in the housing crisis.”  (HT: naked capitalism.)  The full piece is available here, and I highly recommend you go read the whole thing.  What follows is a brief excerpt:

The author of the most brilliantly comedic statement ever written about the crisis is Landon Thomas, Jr….  Everything worth reading is in the first sentence, and it should trigger belly laughs nationwide. “Bank of America, one of the nation’s largest banks, was found liable on Wednesday of having sold defective mortgages, a jury decision that will be seen as a victory for the government in its aggressive effort to hold banks accountable for their role in the housing crisis.” … Yes, we have not seen such an aggressive effort since Captain Renault told Rick in the movie Casablanca that he was “shocked” to discover that there was gambling going on (just before being handed his gambling “winnings” which were really a bribe)…. The jurors found that BoA (through its officers) committed an orgy of fraud in order to enrich those officers…. The journalist’s riff is so funny because he portrays DOJ’s refusal to prosecute frauds led by elite BoA officers as “aggressive.”  Show the NYT article to friends you have who are Brits and who claim that Americans are incapable of irony…. I’m not sure whether the DOJ consciously deciding not to investigate, bring civil suits, or prosecute the most destructive frauds in history represents “aggressive” or “accountable” to the DOJ.  We do know, however, the fantasy that caused DOJ to give these control frauds a free pass. Benjamin Wagner, a U.S. Attorney who is actively prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in Sacramento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraudulent. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves,” Wagner said. “They” refers to the CEO.  “Themselves” refers to the bank.  “They” are not “defrauding themselves.” …  The game being played out in all the corporate settlements, like the JPMorgan deal, is that the controlling officers, even when they grew wealthy by looting the shareholders, use corporate funds to cut deals that protect them from being prosecuted or having to return their fraudulent proceeds.  We all know who pays for this – the shareholders.  Only a comic genius would have the mastery of irony necessary to call the ability of elite bankers to become wealthy through fraud with immunity “accountability.” … The self-congratulations that DOJ press flacks regularly issue to attempt to con journalists and the public into believing that DOJ is aggressively holding elite bankers accountable for their frauds make “Baghdad Bob” seem credible by comparison.

Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink


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