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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Above the Law?

What law? What is this "law" of which you speak, stranger?

The recent dustup over Goldman Sachs, the most powerful bank on Wall Street and one of the largest in the country, is one of the very few critical moments in the bank's history. I use "critical" as a double entendre because not only is the SEC's civil lawsuit against Goldman one of the very few times it's been criticized for its business dealings but when news broke of the SEC's lawsuit, Wall Street's most dependable money-maker lost 10% of its stock price.

But this civil lawsuit, which, at most, will end up with the SEC and not the homeowners who'd been destroyed by Goldman's top executives betting against mortgaged-backed securities through its Abacus program getting a huge fine will guarantee business will go on as usual. This is a day and age in which even multi-million dollar federal fines are a mere ancillary cost of doing business, with bankruptcy courts and "too big to fail" federal bailouts as their Plan B's. After all, since Goldman Sachs just reported first quarter earnings of almost $3.5 billion, who cares if they have to dig between their couch cushions and literally pull a few million dollars out of their fat, pasty asses? It's a money laundering scheme, essentially, meaning the government makes a show of acting tough against the occasional corporation, they pay Uncle Sam millions in fines, we don't see a penny of it and we hear days or weeks later another outrageously innovative way that the same corporation has come up with to make money.

But acting tough with civil lawsuits and questioning Chairmen and CEO's instead of going after them with handcuffs and truncheons (Buzzflash editorial) isn't the same thing as being tough. The 1999 repeal of Glass Steagall, arguably Bill Clinton's lowest moment next to NAFTA, handcuffs even federal regulators who might actually have a desire to reign in what Matt Taibbi famously called the "bloodsucking squidmonster."

It's notable that, even as the NY Times reported that Goldman's elite executives, including Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein himself, manipulated those mortgage-backed securities that were almost sure to fail and fraudulently sold them to their investors, none of them were named in the civil suit that still, at worst, would've been a slap on the wrist.

In fact, Fabrice P. Tourre, the Frenchman "who saw disaster looming" and was a pioneer in the "credit-default swaps" that largely contributed to the housing bubble bursting, is the only Goldman executive named in the civil suit.

There are certain people and entities in this country that are simply beyond the law or would be had we any actual laws prohibiting this sort of thing from happening. But Glass Steagall's repeal 11 years ago made possible betting against mortgage-backed securities that were anything but secure. And Blankfein, at most, is occasionally called to Capitol Hill so he can get barked at by toothless Democrats on short leashes. Congressional testimony also gives him another reason to warn Congress about the danger of capping already out-of-control executive compensation.

Hardly a word in the MSM has been said concerning the real victims of this credit default swap that's no better than a massive rigged game of craps, which is the individual homeowner. Homeowners who were suckered into home loans by smooth-talking con men who assured them everything would be alright and that their APR's wouldn't double before the first two years of homeownership.

Homeowners who would then be told pay up twice as much or get the fuck out and, by the way, bail us out to the tune of ten billion dollars and forget about getting any more loans even after we get bailed out, forget about having your loans renegotiated or your mortgages restructured or being able to refinance. The days of you using your house as an ATM machine are long gone.

But not the days of unprecedented profits for places like the corporations that put them out of business and turned them out of their homes because our own government made it more profitable for them to foreclose than it would have been to keep these families in their homes so they could do their part to shore up the economy.

It's never been about shoring up the economy but shoring up parasitic corporations. It has, however been all about socializing losses and privatizing gains, keeping "the dreams of many in the hands of one", as Eugene Debs once defined "investment." And not naming the head vampire squids Blankfein and Cohn and all the top executives under them was not a simple oversight.

A man steals a loaf of bread to feed his family and gets a year in prison. John A. Paulson selling worthless mortgage-backed securities that he knows will fail while swindling investors and helping to get hard-working homeowners evicted makes over $3 billion with utter impunity and all under the radar of the SEC and the mainstream media.

Because there are some people who are simply above the law or would be if there were any actual laws to restrain the Goldman Sachs, Enrons and Worldcoms in our country.
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Anonymous mandt said...
Eventually people will figure out that the greatest crime in a capitalist society is not murder, rape or child abuse, but destroying property. Revolution follows such an awakening as does the downfall.