Thursday, May 20, 2010
To big to bail
by Larry Geller
It’s about time we cleaned crime off the street. I’m referring to Wall Street, of course.
On Wall Street, Democracy Now reported that big banks knew they were warned of their practices by their internal fraud investigators, so they got rid of the investigators:
A two-part investigative series called "Silencing the Whistleblowers" reports that when fraud investigators working within big banks tried to warn their superiors of shady practices, they were not only ignored, but frequently harassed, demoted or even fired. [Democracy Now, "Silencing the Whistleblowers": How Will Financial Reform Prevent Another Crash If Banks Subvert Their Warning Systems?, 5/20/2010]
Why are corporate criminals not behind bars? And yes, if they are so big that paying bail of any amount is small change to them, why not just keep them in the slammer.
Moving on to oil executives and their regulators… also from Democracy Now, read how federal investigations were thwarted by orders from the top, and the penalty for a BP infraction set at the same amount they would get back from their insurance company:
When the Bush administration took over at the Department of Justice, and the US attorney came in, it was—became a bottom-of-the-barrel case and was ultimately settled out for a very low amount of money. And I have been talking with one of the investigators on that case, and he said the amount of money that was determined as the fine in that matched what the insurance companies were willing to pay. So Olympic Pipe Line essentially did not have to actually pay the fine, but it was covered by their insurance company. Now, that Olympic Pipe Line settlement became the benchmark, within the Bush Department of Justice, for environmental crime.
So then we had the Texas City explosion by BP that resulted in a number of deaths and injuries caused by failure to maintain the same sort of corporate practices that I saw in Alaska. And that case got wrapped up at the same time that mine did, and the settlement there, based upon the Olympic Pipe Line precedent, was set at $50 million. So they said, well, then, my spill case in Alaska could not get anywhere near that amount, because that had fatalities, and so they settled it for $20 million.
Now, for BP, $20 million is a rounding error, when you look at the amount of profits they make on a daily basis. It made no impact into changing their practices. The only thing that could really change the practices had been if we had been able to pursue and hold individuals accountable for their decisions. As you well know, the corporations do not make decisions; the individuals within them do. And so, to hold those individuals accountable would have been the proper conclusion to the investigation. Fmr. EPA Investigator Scott West: US Has Told BP "It Can Do Whatever It Wants and Won’t Be Held Accountable"
It’s not just a pipe that’s broken, it’s an entire system of regulation, for banks, insurance companies, and oil companies.
But don’t those banks, insurance companies and oil companies own our Congresspeople? Maybe they own our military, also. Check out Coast Guard Under 'BP's Rules' (CBS News, 5/18/2010).