Contrary to the Justice Department’s stated promise “to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis . . . to ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes . .” - it has largely failed in its mission.
Its mortgage fraud department launched a much touted campaign - “Operation Stolen Dream” to punish the offenders. It did indeed indict 1,500 low level criminals with nearly $200 million in fines. But, the Justice Departments pronouncement to “get tough on crime” was largely a PR effort. Its dragnet swept up those guilty of liar loans, and small-time independent mortgage brokers all with a wink and nod of loan approvals by the ‘big-daddy banks.” Not a single bank official who approved these bogus loans was asked to don an orange suit and ankle chains.
Top executives of companies like Countrywide or New Century or Lehman Brothers evaded serious consequences. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was another exercise in public relations.
The latest bank guilty of egregious conduct is Credit Swiss. Successive US administrations have largely ignored Switzerland’s secrecy laws which allow wealthy Americans to evade paying taxes. Credit Swiss agreed to pay $2.6 billion in fines but senior officials evaded criminal liability. Senator Carl Levin echoes the sentiments of many Americans when he stated “ it is a mystery to me why the U.S. government didn’t cough up the names of U.S. clients (22,000 as of 2006) with secret bank accounts.”