History will judge our willingness to defend moral principles against the corrupting influence of the Wall Street capos. So far, their campaign cash and lucrative revolving-door jobs have kept them above the law, while their PR firms and personal salesmanship have largely exempted them from moral judgement in the inner corridors of wealth and power.
Chicago in the 1920s, the Chicago of Al Capone, had nothing on today's Washington D.C.
A new lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase is being met with both optimism and skepticism. But, ironically, investigators have finally broken their silence on criminal indictments for bankers... to protect its chief executive.
The Chicago-style immunity enjoyed by today's bankers will only be broken if this recent lawsuit is followed by many more -- along with criminal indictments where appropriate. And these lawsuits will only deter future crimes if bankers are forced to make restitution from their own pockets, not their shareholders'.
Look Who's Talking
The Justice Department has been stonewalling the public for years on Wall Street crime by saying it "can't comment on ongoing investigations." But when it comes to investigations designed to exonerate those same bank CEOs, look who's talking now!
"Federal authorities are using taped phone conversations to build criminal cases related to the multibillion-dollar trading loss at JPMorgan Chase," The New York Times "Dealbook" blog reported this week, "focusing on calls in which employees openly discussed how to value the troubled bets in a favorable way."
Why so chatty all of sudden, "sources close to the investigation"? The answer becomes obvious a few paragraphs into the piece: "The investigation does not appear to touch the upper echelons of the executive suite ... The findings could insulate JPMorgan and its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, from further fallout." (emphasis ours)
Got that? Investigators won't say a word when big bankers are under suspicion. But when talking will help them you can't shut 'em up!
And ah, yes. James "Jamie" Dimon. Dimon, the CEO whose bank has apparently been above the law, suddenly finds that his institution is the target of a criminal investigation. At long last. And the Justice Department's even willing to talk about it! But whaddya know? They're claiming it will exonerate Mr. Dimon.
Jamie Dimon. Like the man in the Dylan song says: He can't help it if he's lucky.
Dealbook's anonymous source is quite the chatterbox, even offering the names of the individual suspects -- most of whom, as fate would have it, are French citizens who have returned to their home country and are therefore beyond the reach of U.S. law. Zut alors!
(Ah, how we wish we could indict them, one imagines the Justice Department official whispering to the journalist. But their government will not extradite. You know how it is with the French, our anonymous source adds with a shrug. I ask my friends at the Surete what can be done, but they merely light another Gauloise and say C'est la vie.)
Looks like Jamie Dimon's luck is contagious.