Column: Wall Street thieves should be ashamed ... and shamed
By JIM HIGHTOWER, OtherWords
AUSTIN, Texas — When Wall Street wrongdoer Citigroup accepted what the media hailed as a whopping $7-billion penalty for defrauding its own investors and wrecking our economy, the bank’s CEO just shrugged, saying: “We believe that this settlement is in the best interest of our shareholders and allows us to move forward and to focus on the future.”
Note the lack of any regret, apology, or shame for the bankers’ wrongdoings that’ll cost Citigroup shareholders a sizable chunk of change. And note especially the total absence of any pledge that the bankers won’t do it again. So much for a $7 billion penalty being a deterrent to Wall Street finagling.
One reason he could be so blasé is that our Justice Department’s prosecutors filed no criminal charges in Citigroup’s blatant, gargantuan theft — not against the bank itself, nor against any of the bankers who plotted, executed and profited from the theft. They certainly had evidence of criminal fraud — in one internal email, a Citigroup executive essentially admitted that the package of loans sold to investors as solid, were in fact baloney: “[I] think we should start praying,” he wrote to his higher ups, “I would not be surprised if half of these loans went down.” But the bank peddled the packages anyway.
Another reason the chief wasn’t fazed by the government’s big fine is that neither he — nor any Citigrouper — would personally pay a penny of it. Rather, the tab would be handed to the bank’s shareholders.
Justice Department honchos proudly held a press conference announcing their “punishment” of Citigroup. Missing entirely from the picture, however, was Citigroup’s CEO or any of the bank’s executives who participated in the fraud. If they don’t go to jail and don’t pay a dime — shouldn’t they at least have to show up and have their pictures in the paper and on TV? At minimum, let’s start publicly shaming these Wall Street thieves.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.