Banking System Rotten to the Core

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The following is a transcript of a recent speech given by Professor William Black on an Economics Panel regarding the fradulent roots of our current crisis and the urgent need for criminal prosecutions among major US banks.

In the Savings and Loans crisis, which was 1/70th the size of this crisis, our agency made over 10,000 criminal referrals that resulted in the conviction on felony grounds of over 1,000 elites in what were designated as major cases. And to pick up on what’s just been said, this is not just some sidelight to economics, this is why we have recurrent intensifying crises, is these epidemics of fraud from the C-Street—from the CEOs and CFOs.

In the Savings and Loans crisis, the inevitable National Commission said that fraud was invariably present at the typical large failure. In the Enron era, always frauds from the very top of the organization, and in this crisis the frauds came from the very top of the organization again. But what’s different in this crisis? In this crisis, the same agency that I worked with that made over 10,000 criminal referrals in a tinier crisis made zero criminal referrals. They got rid of the entire function. And so there are zero convictions of anybody in the elite ranks of Wall Street. And if they can defraud us with impunity they will cause crisis after crisis and they will produce maximum inequality.

The group that has the audacity to refer to itself as the productive class is the largest destroyer of lives, jobs, and of wealth of any group ever produced in this world. They wiped out six million existing jobs and five to six million jobs that would’ve been created. As you’ve heard, they’ve left 26 million Americans wanting full-time work with no ability to find that work. If you look at just losses in the household sector, it is $11 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billion. And then they have the nerve to say they are the productive class; and, not this journalist, but what we get as faux journalism today, repeats this endlessly as if it were a fact—that they create jobs. They destroy jobs. They are mass destroyers of jobs.

I told you I would bring you a message of hope. I will disagree a little bit with a fact pattern about the Reagan administration and re-regulation on Savings and Loans, because that’s where I was. I will tell you this: everyone opposed our re-regulation of the industry. The big deregulation bill, the equivalent of the repeal of Glass-Steagall and such, occurred in 1982 and became effective in 1983. By November 1983, we were already re-regulating the Savings and Loan industry. And we were called re-regulators because that was the greatest swear word the Reagan administration believed existed—to call people re-regulators. But this was not partisan—a majority of the members of the House at the time it was controlled by Democrats co-sponsored a resolution saying do not go forward with re-regulation.

Five US Senators who became known as the Keating 5 because the most infamous fraud of that era got them together—and who, by the way, did Charles Keating and that fraud use to recruit the Keating 5? Brought him as a lobbyist to walk the halls of the Senate—a guy named Alan Greenspan. Who also put in writing Lincoln Savings posed no foreseeable risk of loss. It was only the most expensive failure—a 3000 position error. And after he got everything wrong in the most important issues he had ever dealt with, after that fact we named him Chairman of the Federal Reserve because we promote incompetence if it helps the 1%.

The Reagan administration was so outraged that we were closing insolvent Savings and Loans with great political support that the Office of Management and Budget threatened to file a criminal referral against the head of our agency on the grounds that he was closing too many insolvent banks. Do we have that problem recently? You see Geithner out trying to close the big powerful banks? And that Reagan administration tried to appoint two members—there were only three members running the place—so this would’ve given control to Charles Keating, the most notorious fraudster in the Savings and Loans crisis, who selected two individuals to run the agency that would then not regulate him. One of them got knocked out on ambiguous political grounds and the other I had to blow the whistle to get him to resign in disgrace, but of course they didn’t prosecute him.

We can prosecute these frauds. The Federal Housing Finance Administration has just filed complaints saying 17 of the largest banks in America committed massive fraud—endemic fraud—and that there’s a paper trail proving that they did so. So where is the Justice department? Why is it not indicting these clear frauds?

When you are told no one could see this crisis coming, ask them about the subprime crisis of 1990 to 1991. It’s a trick question. As all good things do in the world of fraud, this one started in Orange County, where you had significant people making liars loans. Now, remember, it is the lenders who put the lies in liars loans, not the borrowers. We know this empirically. And we stopped that—because it was insane—as regulators. And guess what happened? The leading folks making liars loans gave up their federal charter, gave up federal deposit insurance, and became a mortgage bank for the sole purpose of escaping regulation. And they changed their name. Some of you will recognize this name—to Ameriquest. Ameriquest was the leading predatory lender that in addition to making liars loans every day of the week targeted minorities to destroy that wealth you just heard about. They targeted Latinos, they targeted Blacks, and they were caught. They were caught three times doing this and the justice department refused to prosecute. Instead they settled for four hundred million dollars and guess what happened to the head of Ameriquest? Did he: a) resign in disgrace, b) was he indicted, or c) did we make him our ambassador to the Netherlands? Got it and won. How hard is this to figure out? Why do you think we made him our ambassador to the Netherlands? Because he was the leading political contributor to president of the United States of America. And that’s bad but what comes next is far worse. Remember, this is the most notorious fraud in the nation. It targets minorities. Everybody knows it does so. Two entities rushed to acquire these personnel and this business and their names—Citicorp and Washington Mutual—who become two of the most notorious frauds in all of this.

So timewise I’ll stop here but the case is, when we prosecuted, we had a ninety-percent conviction rate when they had the best criminal defense lawyers in the world and they spent money like water to protect the CEO from going to prison. So when they tell you no one can stop this, it is utter nonsense. I’ll leave you with these statistics: the FBI warned of this in September 2004. In open testimony, it warned expressly that there was an epidemic—I’m quoting—an “epidemic of mortgage fraud” and it predicted it would cause a financial crisis. If that’s not enough, the industry own anti-fraud experts in 2006, in writing, went to every mortgage banker in America and virtually every other lender and said three things: 1) stated income loans are an open invitation to fraudsters, 2) the incidence of fraud in such loans is 90%, and 3) these loans deserve the phrase—used by the industry behind closed doors—they are liars loans because they are pervasively fraudulent. How big did they get? Well, what did the industry do after it was warned? Did it stop making these loans? No! It massively increased the amount of these loans such that by 2006, one out of every three home loans in America was a liars loan. And that’s why we have a crisis and it came from the very top of these organizations, and it went through—as the FHFA said in its complaint—the largest banks in the world were endemically fraudulent. It is not a few rotten apples. It is an orchard of one percenters who are rotten to the core.

Related Links:

William Black: Why No One Went to Jail During the Credit Crisis

Thoreau, RICO & Mortgage Fraud

Gerald Celente on MF Global, Fascism, and the Culture of Corruption

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About William K Black PhD

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