Bill Black on the Department of Justice’s Failure to Prosecute Individuals and Promises to Do Better

This is a wide-ranging interview with Bill Black on a subject of the keen desire of the public to see more corporate officials prosecuted for big business misdeeds, and why that never happens these days. Interviewer Richard Eskow starts with the case of the GM ignition switch defect that GM covered up for a decade. Black points out that this should have been a case for prosecution of executives, particularly since it’s now estimated that 100 people died as a result, yet GM merely paid a big fine and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement.

Black goes through the history of how the theory of non-prosecution came to be institutionalized and comments on important precedents, like Enron, and more recent cases. He also debunks the classic excuse “It’s too hard to prosecute these people”. The experience of Benjamin Lawsky at the a secondary regulator with a tiny staff, the New York Department of Financial Services, with no prosecutorial powers, was able to force resignations of senior executives as part of his settlements. Imagine what he would have been able to do had he been able to lodge indictments.

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  1. juliania

    Thank you very much for this, Yves.

    The important part for me was when they discussed Enron. A platinum platter case for prosecution thanks to the email trail. Plus that kicker at the end that non-prosecution of individuals simply opened the barn door for General Motors and the like. Self-driving cars? Good luck, motorists.

  2. Whatever

    This is so disgusting that I can’t even adequately articulate and type my disgust. Across the country, everyday, in every DA’s office at whatever level, along with every conceivable branch/agency of federal/state/local law enforcement, resources are directed at investigating, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating hundreds of thousands if not millions of people for traffic violations, street corner drug dealing, and other petty crimes that are the inevitable result in a society that is rife with deprivation. The notion that those same resources cannot be directed at massive conspiracies to suck people dry is idiotic. This is a matter of will.

    I have family in Northeastern Ohio, including Cleveland and Akron. Some of them are social workers and they updated me on what poverty and heroin are doing in their communities. I also read some news about the prosecution/law enforcement approach and came across this article:

    It states that well over 10 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies were involved in an investigation that lasted for about five years!! The result: 20 arrests and indictments of people who were probably living in a land of lack of opportunity and the recovery of “six firearms, a Kevlar vest, ammunition, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and U.S. currency.” Another article makes reference to the recovery of a whopping $2,280 in cash.

    Why bother typing anymore?

  3. GuyFawkesLives

    100 people died in GM scandal….

    How many homeowners have committed suicide during the financial/foreclosure crisis?
    How many homeowners have had non-fatal heart attacks because of financial/foreclosure crisis?
    How many homeowners’ marriages ended up in divorce from the financial/foreclosure crisis?
    How many children are homeless because of the financial/foreclosure crisis?

    What has the stress from the financial/foreclosure crisis done to the health of our population???

    1. Carla

      It seems to be a shameful secret that people are suffering–and have been for the last 7 years–and will for any foreseeable future. Nobody wants to hear it, but among my close friends and relatives, the damage has been extensive. Numerous young college graduates unable to find any job that pays above minimum wage, and of course still living at home with their parents, because how could they live elsewhere? Numerous people who lost their jobs in their prime, and will never work again. They spent their savings trying to hang on until the next job would kick in, but it never did. Now, 7 long years later, they’re scraping by on minimal Social Security checks.

      So, what are we doing as a society to deal with this? Well, all the high school juniors and seniors I know are busily filling out financial aid forms and preparing to take on astronomical debts so they can attend “the college of their choice.”

      What a cruel joke.

  4. mclaren

    This is what a stratikakistokleptocracy looks like. (Goverment of the worst by theft and militarism.)

    Will till corporations push for legislation to bring back slavery (it will be called “indentured servitude”) for people who can’t afford to pay back their debts. It’s coming.

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