Bernanke: Jail the Banksters

President Obama should have thrown the banksters in jail.

That’s more or less what former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said in an interview this weekend with USA Today.

Bernanke doesn’t get off totally scot-free here.

If he really felt that way back in 2009, he could have said so publicly.

Yes, the Fed “isn’t a law enforcement agency,” but its word still carries a lot of weight in Washington and around the world.

If Bernanke, as the Fed Chair, had said that it was a good idea to prosecute bank executives, that would have put a ton of pressure on the Justice Department to do so.

But anyways, all questions of personal responsibility aside, Bernanke is right.

We SHOULD have jailed more banksters after the financial crisis, and the fact that we didn’t -- and still haven’t -- will go down in history as one of this administration’s biggest screw-ups.

That’s because the only thing that actually keeps big financial institutions in check is prosecutions.

Just ask Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

In the wake of the savings and loans debacle of the 1980s, the Reagan and Bush administrations prosecuted over 1,000 different individuals for their role in the crisis, and of those prosecutions, 839 resulted in convictions.

The Reagan and Bush administrations also stripped the S&L's of their assets, nationalized them, and then resold them to the public using a special agency called the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Not coincidentally, the S&L’s have been remarkably stable ever since.

President Obama should have done what Reagan did.

He should have thrown the Wall Street banksters in jail.

But he didn’t, and if there’s one person most responsible for that, it’s former Attorney General Eric Holder, the granddaddy of “too big to jail.”

Back when he was a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder wrote an infamous memo in which he laid out a plan for how to deal with large financial crimes.

Nicknamed the “Holder Doctrine,” his plan was simple: Instead of prosecuting big banks and thus “destabilizing” the financial system, the government should just hit them with financial penalties - just fine them.

Ten years later, Holder got a chance to put his doctrine into practice when he became Attorney General, and he followed it to a tee.

During his tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, no major Wall Street player in the great mortgage bubble of the 2000’s went to jail for their crimes.

Holder’s Justice Department did slap a few big banks like JP Morgan with multi-million dollar settlement fines, but those fines are chump change compared to the billions those banks take in every year in profits, including the profits from illegal activity.

These fines have just become a routine cost of doing business for the banksters.

They’re also tax-deductible, which makes the idea that they could ever serve as a deterrent to future bad behavior just flat-out ridiculous.

Thanks to the Holder Doctrine, the big banks are bigger than ever and comfortable in the knowledge that they’re still too big to jail, six years after they got caught robbing America blind.

That needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Eric Holder is now out as Attorney General, and his successor, Lorretta Lynch has promised to hold the banks to a tougher standard.

Let’s hope that standard means prosecuting high-up executives and CEO's, because if it doesn’t, the odds of another crash are rapidly approaching 100 percent.


cccccttttt 7 years 24 weeks ago

Great line of inquiry.

However, suggest the article needs some finishing paragraphs:

Why did Obama allow such limited federal prosectuiion?

A charitable guess: he was about fixing the immediate disaster

and then much later was too busy with other national problems

to "put the bastards in jail".

A cynical guess: he gets a great deal of money from Wall Street and wants more.

So what says Tom Hartmann?


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 24 weeks ago

Jail the banksters?!? Maybe we should follow China's example and EXECUTE THEM! After all, there are a lot of deaths, possibly hundreds, that can be directly blamed on the economic disaster the banksters created.

But these days, justice is mercurial creature in this country.

Elioflight's picture
Elioflight 7 years 24 weeks ago

The US justice system's DUTY is to protect the many from the few, try and punish lawbreakers, a job they have been remiss in performing when the wealthy/corporations are involved.

Or the 99% CAN SEEK their own justice and have that right according to our US Constitution.

We are getting stronger every day.

dianhow 7 years 24 weeks ago

Agreed There have been so many 'should haves' Wall ST crooked Banksters have only gotten more greedy & arrogant sinc e being bailed out by taxpayers. My family saved & worked all ouir lives, then lost our Earned pension, savings going fast, caretaking a sick family member, paying bills, & buying meds, dealing with serious illness WHO will bail us out ? NO ONE GOP says ' People are lazy bums !! They call SS an entitlement NO Its an earned benefit. I detest the anti worker anti labor anti women pro wealth GOP . This is NOT the GOP I grew up with Most have NO family Values and are NOT true Christians . As a 72 yr old widow...I am about to give up...

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 24 weeks ago

Yes, Obama SHOULD have thrown those banksters in jail. But Obama & Eric Holder are CORPORATISTS, and corporatists don’t do that. They’re spineless.

And by the way, fuck Bernanke. Too little, too late. As usual.

I can only hope the new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, has more balls than her male predecessor. But if she’s another corporate Dem, forget it! Time to brace ourselves for the next BIG CRASH.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 7 years 24 weeks ago

@ dianhow; This is the result of the two majority political parties in this country merging to become a two party duopoly thirty years ago, two sides of the same coin selling out to the 1% at the top of the economic ladder ! To some extent we can blame the generations that came after us who were never required to contribute anything to a system that basically promised them a free ride. Well, now the bill is coming due and those recent generations who were the beneficiaries are about to experience the real costs. It appears that it is going to take yet another Great Depression, lhe second one in less than a hundred years, to wake the complacent masses ! We really can't blame them because they have repeatedly been lied to by the people they elected to public office. You and I learned about the brutal conditions that afflicted most Americans during the last Great Depression from our parents who were forced to live through it, unfortunately these recent generations are in complete denial over what they are about to face !

tom kauser 7 years 24 weeks ago

you do realize that the government needed them out of jail more than they needed them in jail during that period. The Treasury perp marched all of the money center bankers on a lovely friday evening in NY into an office building to sign equity control of their Banks over to the FED? Since that evening back in '08 the Bankster has been an agent of the Federal Reserve Bank just like ISIS ISIL Doesch or takfari's are today? Dirty half dozen banksters trick fornicated themselves into being controlled by instead of sponsors for The Federal Reserve!

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