Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pour encourager les autres

It's time to wheel out RICO and aim it at the banks and financial services corporations that took some of the $700 billion in bailout money that was approved earlier this year.

It'll tick off the Libertarians, the Republicans, and the other "free market" corporate apologists who think that Big Business can do no wrong and certainly shouldn't be held accountable for their actions, but the white-collar financial sector's misuse of the money from the taxpayer-funded bailout and their utter arrogance about it is breathtaking.

And it needs to be addressed, and not just by taking political potshots at union workers when the more blue-collar auto industry comes begging for bailout money of its own.

From AP via the Asbury Park Press -
Think you could borrow money from a bank without saying what you were going to do with it? Well, apparently when banks borrow from you they don't feel the same need to say how the money is spent.


"We're choosing not to disclose that," said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.

Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money, said that while some of the money was lent, some was not, and the bank has not given any accounting of exactly how the money is being used.

"We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to," Kelly said.

The story had quotes from other Big Bank spokesmen, but the gist was the same from all of them - "Hey taxpayers! How we spend your money is none of your business. Now go away."

Of course, if small businesses or individuals such as you or I were to go to one of the banks to ask for a loan, the first question they'd ask would be "what are you going to do with it?"

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute was originally aimed at the Mob and other criminal organizations, and used quite effectively. Given the banks' actions and practices before and after becoming recipients of Congress' largesse, they definitely qualify as "corrupt organizations."

While the statute itself was written in such a way as to specifically target the Mob, etc., its definitions are general enough that it can be applied to more traditional organizations that engage in criminal activity.

It lists as predicate acts things such as "bribery", "extortionate credit transactions", "embezzlement from pension and welfare funds", "obstruction of justice", and more. They've violated one or more of the applicable sections (personally, I like the "obstruction" sections for this :) ) somewhere along the line, and it's time to use that.

Pick one of the banks (perhaps the one that has received the greatest amount of taxpayer $$$), make a case, make the case stick, seize all of their assets, and put a bunch of executives, officers, and directors in jail.

*That* might persuade the banks to change their practices and attitudes. It might even influence some non-bank MegaCorps to do the same.

Somebody might argue that such a dissolution of a major financial corporation would have a significant and negative impact on the overall economy.

Guess what? The economy is already screwed, and in major part due to the misdeeds and blind avarice of these corporations.

Let them feel some of the pain that the rest of us are feeling (home sales and prices here, job losses here)

Oh, and the next time Congress approves any kind of corporate bailout without stringent and enforceable transparency and oversight provisions, recall 'em.

All of them.

A couple of bribery indictments would be appropriate too.

They (the Congresscritters) might be able to argue that they made an honest mistake with the original bailout in their panic to address the situation before November's elections, which might be true. Even if true, it doesn't speak well for their priorities or their diligence in performing their duties, but I digress.

However, it was a BIG mistake (really, really big), and if they make that same mistake a second time, most people (including me!) won't believe that there's anything "honest" about it.



Thane Eichenauer said...

...and the next time Congress approves any kind of corporate bailout...

Why wait for next time? Their prior votes are plain evidence of their lack of competence.


cpmaz said...

"Why wait for next time?"

Because while I'm rather cynical, even I think that most of them are basically honest human beings who can be expected to screw up.

However, on screw ups like this one, only the first is presumed to be an honest screw up. Any subsequent ones do not receive that benefit.

A second screw up of this nature means that they are dishonest or are simply incapable of learning from their mistakes.

Either condition renders them ineligible for public office, IMO.