One of my favorite chroniclers of the dangerous political times in which we find ourselves is David Dayen at the The American Prospect (TAP). I find his insights to be helpful in understanding the mess we are in, but he is very often hopeful, too.
Such is the case with one of his current articles in TAP. He notes in it that the U.S. Justice Department is finally showing some muscle in prosecuting wrongdoing at the highest echelons of Wall Street — something he starts out by noting has long been absent even in Democratic administrations.
In a country with such a yawning gap between the wealth and influence of elites and the comparatively piddling power of everyone else, to catch what’s really happening at the highest levels of power you must consult news sources like the Vineyard Gazette, a paper covering goings-on in Martha’s Vineyard. A recent chronicle of a book event for former Attorney General Eric Holder offered just such a window.
Holder was asked whether, if he were still running the Justice Department, he would charge Donald Trump, specifically for inciting the riot at the Capitol on January 6th. Holder called out to Lanny Breuer, his head of the Criminal Division while at DOJ, who happened to be in the audience.
“So Lanny, would we bring this case?” asked Holder. “We would bring it in a minute,” replied Breuer, to thunderous applause.
If ever there was a moment of elite historical amnesia, it was this. Lanny Breuer and Eric Holder are jointly responsible as the greatest enablers of criminal impunity in American history. They indicted literally nobody of consequence for the destruction of the U.S. economy in the global financial crisis of 2008, and the mountain of demonstrable fraud that triggered it. In fact, Holder literally had a corner office held for him at Covington & Burling, the corporate defense firm that represented many of the top banks whose executives Holder declined to prosecute, while he served as attorney general.
Why anyone would listen to the views of Holder and Breuer on the subject of holding criminal actors responsible is beyond comprehension. These are two charter members of the chickenshit club.
He then goes on to describe a recent case in which the Justice Dept. sought and won convictions in an important case of Wall Street lying and cheating, something so common it’s shocking it hasn’t happened more often.
But the most hopeful elite accountability moment this week, the one that suggests that maybe the rule of law has a pulse, wasn’t actually conducted with a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. It was a Justice Department victory in a different case that actually holds top officials of one of the nation’s biggest corporate recidivists accountable.
On Wednesday, a jury in Chicago convicted two traders from JPMorgan Chase, including managing director Michael Nowak, who was the head of the bank’s gold trading desk, for financial fraud in gold markets. The traders were engaging in “spoofing,” a practice of entering fake trades to spur activity and boost the commodity price.
Financial-reform observers believe this case involves the most senior bank officers ever charged in recent history, let alone convicted. The Justice Department actually went for a racketeering charge, depicting the precious metals trading desk as a criminal enterprise within the bank. This is incredibly new stuff for a Justice Department that has long been moribund on corporate crime. “RICO is now clearly a valid charge in white-collar criminal cases like this, and that’s a very, very powerful weapon,” said Dennis Kelleher of the financial reform group Better Markets.
You can read the rest of the article at this link.
You can read the Justice Dept. press release about the spoofing case at this link.