Yves here. You cannot make this stuff up. This Real News Network segment features Bill Black discussing, based on his first-hand experience of having the Department of Justice attempting to quash Black’s expert witness testimony in a fraud case because Black is a “jihadist” against banks. Since when is calling out fraud tantamount to conducting a religious war? Only if you are a devout adherent of cult of elite finance.
I had lunch with a prominent journalist yesterday who told me how much more difficult it has become over time to do intrepid reporting about major financial firms. Led by the major PR firms, they fight tooth an nail over every point in a story, even inconsequential ones. This is similar to the “take no prisoners” strategy banks adopt in regulatory fights, where every issue is contested, so as to establish the baseline than any change that is even slightly unfavorable to their interest is deemed to be an offense. The intent is not just to wear down the other side, but to get the ones that are already captured or are co-optable to internalize that viewpoint. As this Real News Network story demonstrates, that approach appears to have succeeded in spades at the Department of Justice.
I hope readers will circulate this Real News Network segment on Bill Black widely.
HARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Also welcome to the Bill Black report. As you know, Bill is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City. He’s a white collar criminologist and former financial regulator, and author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is To Own One. Bill, thank you so much for joining us today.
BILL BLACK: Good to be back.
PERIES: So Bill, give us a sense of what you have in your bank vault today.
BLACK: Ah. Well, I have officially arrived. I flew, getting up at 3:00 AM, to Miami immediately after giving my last exam for the semester very late the night before, to do one of my pro bono acts of testifying as an expert witness in a criminal case in which the Justice Department is going after the fraud mice and gerbils instead of the elite criminals. And I say I’ve officially arrived because on the record, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case said that the court shouldn’t listen to me because I was waging, quote, jihad, unquote, against the–.
PERIES: That must be because of your beard, Bill.
BLACK: Well, maybe it’s because I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest populations of Arab-Americans in America, and frequently appear on Al Jazeera. It was particularly nasty because it was in fact I think the day that morning where they’d confirmed the San Bernardino attack as a terrorist attack. So you know, it was designed to be prejudicial and to discredit the folks. But this is how far the Justice Department has fallen. Not only will they not prosecute the elite bank frauds that drove the crisis, but anyone that wants them to do their job they’re treating as a terrorist.
And this is now the third of these pro bono gigs that I’ve taken on. And I can now confirm that it is a consistent pattern. And it’s truly amazing. It isn’t simply that they’re not prosecuting the elite bankers whose frauds caused this crisis. They are actually acting as a collection agency, they being the Justice Department, for the absolute worst fraudulent institutions. And they are prosecuting people and putting hundreds of small-time folks in prison on the basis of thoroughly false theories of the case in which they, the Justice Department, go in as a matter of routine. They claim that the institutions which are the largest criminal enterprises in the world–so in the case I was just in in Miami, was JP Morgan and Countrywide. Two of the largest criminal enterprises in the world. And we know criminal enterprises, because the United States of America has said that what they were doing was fraudulent front to back. How does the Justice Department present their case? Well, they put on the absolute lowest people in the food chain. Underwriters. And they ask them, well, you know, if you were being–you knew you were being given false information, would you have approved a loan? Well, you know, what underwriter without a grant of immunity from prosecution is going to say anything other than, well, of course I would have said no.
But we know at JP Morgan, and we know at Countrywide, and we know because the United States of America has investigated and has filed formal pleadings that this underwriting was completely phony. The Justice Department also supports [liar’s] loans, says that it was perfectly okay and that they were made prudently by places like Countrywide and JP Morgan, even though we know that they had fraud incidents of up to 90 percent. And even though we know Countrywide, for example, did internal reviews that found massive fraud in their liar’s loans, and in response to that what did they do? They adopted a more extreme version of liar’s loans.
And so the Justice Department presents this case in which the bankers that the United States of America says are the worst frauds that completely lead this fraudulent pattern, and where we’ve actually banned liar’s loans because A, they’re inherently fraudulent, and B, they’re inherently anti-consumer, the Justice Department reverses all of that, says the bankers were great. They’re the poor, innocent victims of these clever, you know, hairdressers and such. Or small-time property developers. And proceeds to put hundreds of small-time folks in prison while completely ignoring, as we’ve seen, the elites.
It’s just a staggering abuse, especially for a group that calls itself a Justice Department.
PERIES: And just before Eric Holder left office last year, he actually bragged about having settled for $16 billion with the Bank of America. What kind of breakdown does that settlement has, or you would like to expose here?
BLACK: Well, I can tell you from having been on both sides of the negotiations, it’s easy to get when you’re negotiating with a large bank what sounds like a very large settlement.
Now, the Justice Department played games with the numbers as well. They took all kinds of transactions that the banks were going to do anyway to restructure loans, and they claimed that those things that the bank was actually doing to maximize profits or minimize losses were part of the settlement. So about $5 billion of that is phony money.
But put that aside. Every big bank goes into these negotiations knowing one thing for sure, and that is the Justice Department will never impose a fine significant enough to cause the slightest chance that the bank might get into economic trouble. Because that’s what the Justice Department is scared to death of. And therefore all of these settlements relative to the size of the bank are trivial. And the proof is in the pudding in virtually every case. And I say virtually just to protect myself. In every case that I’ve looked at, the stock price rose when the settlement was announced.
PERIES: Shame. Bill, I thank you so much for joining us today and giving us this brief report, which we hope you continue to do on the Real News Network and look forward to having you back.
BLACK: A network that apparently supports people waging jihad against corrupt bankers.
PERIES: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Bill.
BLACK: Anything I can do for the cause.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Networ