Gretchen Morgenson, the New York Times business reporter, yesterday wrote about aggressive action taken by British financial authorities against top Barclays executives in connection with illegal manipulation of LIBOR interest rates, including the bank’s Chairman, Marcus Agius, and its CEO, Robert E. Diamond Jr., both of whom were forced out of their jobs. In doing so, Morgenson bluntly summarizes the general, governing rules of American justice for financial elites:
One of the most revealing exchanges in the Barclays documents came when a bank official tried to describe why Barclays’s improper postings were not as problematic as those of other banks. “We’re clean but we’re dirty-clean, rather than clean-clean,” an executive said in a phone conversation. Talk about defining deviancy down.
“Dirty clean” versus “clean clean” pretty much sums up Wall Street’s view of cheating. If everybody does it, nobody should be held accountable if caught. Alas, many United States regulators and prosecutors seem to have bought into this argument. . . .
MR. DIAMOND seemed shocked to be pushed out. An American by birth, he probably thought he’d be subject to American rules of engagement when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing at his bank. You know how it works on this side of the Atlantic: faced with a scandal, most chief executives jettison low-level employees, maybe give up a bonus or two — and then ride out the storm. Regulators, if they act, just extract fines from the shareholders.
These, of course, are exactly the same rules that apply to America’s political elites as well. It’s why none of the perpetrators of America’s worldwide torture regime or its systematic warrantless eavesdropping on Americans or the deliberate destruction of incriminating evidence has faced an iota of legal accountability. It’s why the 2008 Congress passed a law that had no purpose other than to retroactively shield the nation’s telecom giants from all liability for their role in the illegal spying. It’s why a bipartisan cast of prominent political officials feels free to openly receive money from and to offer material support to a designated Terror group (MEK) without the slightest fear of punishment, even though ordinary, powerless Muslim Americans have been severely punished for giving far less support to designated Terror groups. The single most remarkable (and revealing) fact of the Obama presidency may very well be the lack of a single prosecution of Wall Street executives for the massive fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis.