Monday, February 9, 2009

Not As Good As A Hanging

Curmudgeon Nicholas Von Hoffman writes about that while going after Bush would not be worth the political turmoil it would cause, the financiers who engineered our crisis are another story and deserve what they get:

The financial malefactors, on the other hand, should have to answer for what they have done, otherwise the endless palaver about accountability is just that: words.

They are beyond most criminal law, which is to be expected since the bankers and financiers hire the politicians who write the laws. Civil law is another matter. Given the oversupply of overly clever lawyers, there ought to be a couple of smart ones who can spin together the legal theory on which to sue Rubin and about 200 of the other top people who have brought economic disaster down on our heads.

Rubin may not have been the mastermind--there might not have been one--but he was in the control room throwing switches. As secretary of treasury he played a principal role in making sure nothing was done ten years ago after Brooksley Born, then chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,
warned that unregulated derivatives "pose grave dangers to our economy." Did they ever!

After leaving the Treasury with the road clear for the puppet masters of high finance to do anything they wanted, Rubin hied himself off to Citigroup, where he was paid $150 million to do his share in
bringing the organization to ruin and untold billions in bailout money.

Rubin may be vulnerable under a federal criminal statute that makes it a crime to commit what is called "honest services fraud," defined as "a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." A big shot convicted under the law could service as much as twenty years in a federal hostelry. Rubin and the others who drove their companies onto the rocks could be made answerable for their conduct given the right grand jury and a US attorney with a yen to make himself or herself famous.

While Rubin may be the best-known master of disaster, he had many comrades in trading worthless securities--which, by a layman's definition if not a lawyer's, is as fraudulent as anything Bernie Madoff is accused of. If we cannot put these people in jail, we can sue the hell out of them, take away their money and give it to the unemployed.

Taking their money away is not as good as a hanging, but seeing them turned out of their mansions with a tin cup and cardboard sign should assuage some of the anger.

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