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The Powerful Escape Responsibility

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The list of corrupt or failing banks and stock security companies is seemingly endless, yet relatively few of their corporate or operational officials are ever charged, arrested or convicted of crimes.

Reuters quoted a knowledgeable federal judge in November about this very point: "U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of Manhattan said while companies have been prosecuted for causing the 2007-2009 financial meltdown, Wall Street executives have escaped justice. "The failure of the government to bring to justice those responsible for such a massive fraud speaks greatly to weaknesses in our prosecutorial system that needs to be addressed," Rakoff said.

It is really quite similar to the lack of accountability for U.S. presidents violating ethics, morals or the law. "Who,' you ask! Start with Barrack Obama! He has insisted that there is no evidence that NSA's gigantic metadata program for phones and the Internet has ever been abused. But PBS and Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian journalist, reported not long ago that: " Obama distinguished his surveillance efforts from those of the Bush administration and reaffirmed his insistence that no Americans' phone calls or emails are being directly monitored without court orders. Greenwald calls Obama's statements "outright false" for omitting the warrantless spying on phone calls between Americans and callers outside the United States. Yet in the meantime, Obama's administration continues to criminally pursue Edward Snowden, the NSA employee who blew the whistles on these practices, and a hero to millions valuing their constitutional rights to privacy.

Richard Nixon did resign and was naturally pardoned by Gerald Ford, his successor, for his role in covering up the criminalized Watergate Scandal. Former President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice, but acquitted by the Senate. Former President Ronald Reagan's administration faced scandal after scandal , resulting in the investigation, indictment, or conviction of scores of administration officials. Despite this lack of supervision, Reagan is now praised by millions world-wide as an outstanding president. Former President George W. Bush faced a multitude of serious scandals, some related to his highly questionable initiation of the wars initiated in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was never held accountable. Don't believe it?! Check out Google search by typing in "George W. Bush scandals!"

What happens when notorious financial entities and their executives get caught by years of incredibly expensive government investigation, ultimately paid for by taxpayers? The financial institution is charged with either civil or sometimes even criminal violations, but few of those responsible bank or security officials are ever arrested or punished. Yet California's three strikes law, a suspect convicted of a felony who has two or more prior kinds of defined convictions must be sentenced to at least 25 years to life in state prison , even if the third offense is nonviolent.  

Sure the banks and security firms sometimes end up being fined billions of dollars, but how does that truly and legally impact on the officials, who often intentionally or irrationally caused the incredible dilemmas, quandaries and  fiscal losses often impacting on stockholders. After those incredible violations, costing some corporate stockholders millions, the responsible company officers continue to operate without penalties to them personally and continue to be responsible for millions or billions of company dollars. In fact, some of them are later treated with bonuses or pay raises.

Yet the beat continues onward! A November 21, 2013 editorial in The New York Times says: " As financial investigations go, it literally can't get any bigger than this: The world's biggest banks are now being investigated for rigging the world's biggest market. In a widening inquiry, as many as 15 banks -- among them, Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and UBS -- are under scrutiny by international officials for alleged manipulation of the $5.3-trillion-a-day foreign exchange market."

Previously, some of these banks and others have been forced to pay millions of dollars in civil fines for all sorts of financial illegalities, but again, rarely do their top executives themselves get hit with monetary civil damages or charged with violations of the law.

Now a quote from a CNN news story January 3, 2014: "Five years after the financial crisis, the debate over whether some of the biggest banks in America are "too big to jail" is causing tensions among prosecutors and regulators."

Most recently, most news outlets reported that "JPMorgan Was Fined More Than $2 Billion in Justice Department Penalties in The Bernie Madoff Case."

Almost four months earlier, Reuters reported: "In agreements with regulators totaling $1 billion and made public on Thursday, the nation's biggest bank (JPMorgan) settled four civil investigations into its "London Whale' trading scandal and two more into the wrongful billing of credit-card customers. The deals, which involve five authorities from the United States and one from the UK, are a milestone in the company's push to clean up its legal affairs but leave JPMorgan exposed to additional costs and embarrassment."

So how can it be that the presidents of the United States, their bank and stock regulators and the Justice Department's prosecutors allow this to happen?

Many in the public have come to cynically believe it occurs because both high ranking politicians and corporate officials nationwide simply are too powerful and influential to be found accountable. By the way, the latest relevant question is this: Is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie going to be held liable or responsible in any way for days of George Washington Bridge traffic jams in early September? They were orchestrated by his administration's highest officials to punish Mark Sokolich, a small-city Democratic mayor in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Sokolich was targeted for punishment because did not endorse Christie's reelection. The investigations are ongoing, but who can predict the results?

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Thomas D. Williams, a freelance writer, worked at The Hartford Courant for almost 40 years before retiring in November 2005 to become an investigative freelancer on Internet news sites. He has written a unique nature book, The Spirits of Birds, (more...)
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