It’s been four long years since the Wall Street banks, through gross negligence and greed, caused the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, resulting in millions losing their homes, jobs and livelihoods. And still, to this day, not a single banker has gone to jail.
But while the Wall Street banks have quickly returned to making record-breaking profits and bonuses, helped in large part by the $700 billion bailout by the American taxpayer, little has changed to prevent the types of abuses that got us into this mess.
That’s why it was celebrated when President Obama announced during his State of the Union address, the creation of a special investigative unit on mortgage origination and securitization. Better yet — Obama appointed NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to co-chair the task force who has broad credibility as a real prosecutor following his earlier refusal to sign on to the 50 State AG robo-signing deal with the big banks.1
According to the White House, “the goal of this joint investigation will be threefold: to hold accountable any institutions that violated the law; to compensate victims and help provide relief for homeowners struggling from the collapse of the housing market, caused in part by this wrongdoing; and to help us finally turn the page on this destructive period in our nation’s history.”
This is all welcome news, but as more details emerged on the task force, one thing became apparent — our top cop to investigate these financial crimes has been massively understaffed and outspent.
Schneiderman has been tasked with investigating some of the most serious crimes of the housing crisis, but with a staff of only 55 investigators and lawyers — roughly the same number of staff that work at a single McDonald’s franchise, and less than 10% of the staff assigned to investigate the S&L scandal. Even the Enron scandal had 100 investigators on the beat, and that’s small potatoes in comparison to the level of systemic corruption and greed that almost resulted in the toppling of the world economy.2
Four years after the banks crashed the economy, homeowners are still underwater, millions are out of work and cases against megabucks like Citigroup and Bank of America are being settled for pennies on the dollar.3 It’s time for justice to be served on Wall Street.
President Obama’s task force is a step in the right direction — but if justice is going to be served, we need to give Eric Schneiderman the backup he needs to put the banksters in jail.
1 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/24/obama-housing-crisis-unit_n_1229617.html
2 – http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/01/27/additional-resources-for-financial-fraud-panel-look-light/
3 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/housing-secretary-donovan-mortgage-settlement_n_1354260.html?ref=mostpopular