"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wall Street: Massively Fraudulent Sociopaths

Here's the link to the Bill Moyers interview with Bill Black. It runs about 25 minutes. Here is a clip:

. . . BILL MOYERS: Why did it take so long for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC, to kick into gear on this? I mean, have they kicked into gear?

WILLIAM K. BLACK Well, they haven't kicked into gear fully, or they'd be naming Blankfein and other senior leaders of Goldman. And they've, as you just mentioned, they've only gone after a junior person. And there would be, if they were really in gear, there would be criminal charges here. And if they were really in gear, there'd be a broad investigation, not just of Goldman, but of all of these major entities.

In the last three weeks, we have finally done a half-baked investigation, mind you. Not -- nothing like we did in the Savings & Loan days -- of Washington Mutual (WaMu), Citicorp, Lehman, and Goldman. And we have found strong evidence of fraud at all four places.

And we have looked previously at Fannie and Freddie and found the same thing. So the only six places we've looked, at really elite institutions, we've found strong evidence of fraud. So where are the other investigations? Why are there no arrests? Why are there no convictions?

BILL MOYERS: Well, Bill, where are the other investigations? Why have there been no arrests? Why have there been no convictions?

WILLIAM K. BLACK Because we have still Bush's wrecking crew in charge of the key regulatory agencies. Why are they still in place? They have abysmal records as major causes of this crisis.

BILL MOYERS: You talk about the Bush appointees still being there, but Goldman's former lobbyist, his treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner's chief of staff, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler, who may soon have new power over derivatives, worked for Goldman.

So did the deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, the under Secretary of State is a former Goldman employee. Goldman's hired Barack Obama's recent chief counsel from the White House on his defense team. I mean--

WILLIAM K. BLACK Don't forget Rubin.

BILL MOYERS: Robert Rubin, whose influence is all over the place, who used to be--

WILLIAM K. BLACK It's his prot�g�s that are in charge of economic policy, under Obama.

BILL MOYERS: So is this administration, which still has some Bush holdovers in it, and now has a lot of Goldman people in it, is this administration going to be able to pass judgment on Goldman Sachs?

WILLIAM K. BLACK Well, so far, they haven't been able to do it. They can't even get themselves to use the word fraud.

There's a huge part that is economic ideology. And neoclassical economists don't believe that fraud can exist. I mean, they just flat out -- the leading textbook in corporate law from law and economics perspective by Easterbrook and Fischel, says -- I'll get pretty close to exact quotation. "A rule against fraud is neither necessary nor particularly important." Right?

Notice how extreme that statement is. We don't need laws. We don't need an FBI. We don't need a justice department. We don't even need rules like the SEC. The markets cleanse themselves automatically and prevent all frauds. This is a spectacularly na�ve thing. There is enormous ideological content. And it fits with class. And it fits with political contributions.

Do you want to look at these seemingly respectable huge financial institutions, which are your leading political contributors as crooks?

BILL MOYERS: TheHill.com website says Goldman Sachs is uniquely positioned to fight this case, that it spent $18 million over the last decade lobbying members of Congress, and put millions more in their campaigns. I mean, you've said elsewhere. That's smart business, right, to invest in the politicians who are going to be investigating you?

WILLIAM K. BLACK I would tell you, the Savings & Loan crisis, our phrase was, "The highest return on assets is always a political contribution."

BILL MOYERS: Well, all right. You're a member of Congress. The Supreme Court has said, "Goldman Sachs can spend all it wants in November to defeat you." Are you going to take them on?

WILLIAM K. BLACK Absolutely, but I would never be elected to Congress because of that. So let me -- in terms of that Supreme Court decision, if corporations are going to be just like people, let me tell you my criminologist hat. Then let's use the three strike laws against them. Three strike laws, you go to prison for life, if you have three felonies. How many of these major corporations would still be allowed to exist, if we were to use the three strike laws, given what they've been convicted of in the past?

And in most states, they remove your civil rights when you're convicted of a felony. Well, let's take away their right to make political contributions that they're found guilty of a violation.

BILL MOYERS: Bill, are you describing a political culture, that is criminogenic?

WILLIAM K. BLACK It's deeply criminogenic. And this ideology that both parties are dominated by that says, "No, big corporations wouldn't cheat. Fraud can't happen. Market's automatically excluded," is insane. We now have the entitlement generation as CEOs. They just plain feel entitled to being wealthy as Croesus with no responsibility, no accountability. They have become literal sociopaths. So one of the things is, you clean up business schools, which right now are fraud factories at the senior levels, right?

They create the new monsters that take control and destroy massive enterprises and cause global economic crises, cause the great recession. And very, very close to causing the second Great Depression. We just barely missed that. And there's no assurance that we've missed it five years out.

BILL MOYERS: This brings us back to what the president said this week. He said the crisis was born of a failure of responsibility from Wall Street to Washington. You've just described that. That brought down many of the world's largest financial firms and nearly dragged our economy into a second Great Depression. But he didn't name names. He doesn't say who specifically was responsible. You have. But the president doesn't name names.

WILLIAM K. BLACK No, and one of the most important things a president has is the bully pulpit. We have not heard speeches by the president demanding that the frauds go to prison. We have not heard speeches from the attorney general of the United States of America, Eric Holder. Indeed, we haven't heard anything. It's like Sherlock Holmes, the dog that didn't bark. And that's the dog that is supposed to be our guard dog. It must bark. And it must have teeth, not just bark.

BILL MOYERS: Bill Black, thank you for being back on the Journal.

WILLIAM K. BLACK Thank you.

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