Many were shocked by Donald Trump’s win on election day. However, it appears there may have been some foreshadowing that was largely ignored by mainstream media outlets. As we take a step back to analyze the anti-establishment, populist movement that fueled this fire, there is one element that shouldn’t be overlooked: The failure of the Obama administration to hold accountable a single, high-ranking executive at any large financial firm for the 2008 economic crisis.
Millions of people lost their jobs. Millions of people lost their homes. And after the smoke had cleared, there was a failure to pursue those who knowingly engaged in fraud. It confirmed for many the suspicion that powerful players on Wall Street receive special attention. Those on Main Street? We get the short end of the stick. Trump’s repeated assertions of a “rigged” system rang true for a huge swath of the electorate.
Although there were a few media outlets that doggedly pursued this lack of accountability (Rolling Stone was one), many were content to simply report it and move one. Those in affluent areas likely overlooked the fact that this failure resonated with people long after the civil settlements had been inked. These high-profile bankers paid some fines, and sometimes shelled out money for penalties from their own pockets. In exchange, they were able to avoid any jail time. Understandably, that left millions of Americans feeling cheated, and as if the justice system was broken.
You may remember that during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, more than 800 bankers were sent to prison. The savings and loan crisis was a mess, but it caused nowhere near the level of devastation that the housing crisis did on our national economy.
Officials with the U.S. Justice Department recently vowed to take a more hard line stance on white collar crimes. But as of yet, the department’s promises of all the new ways in which its agency intends to hold accountable these bankers has not yielded any real results. We know these cases take time to mount, but when we look at the actual numbers of federal white collar crime prosecutions, they are in fact down in 2016 as compared to years past. In the first 11 months of the year, such prosecutions had fallen 18 percent from where we were five years ago.
Meanwhile, we have 53 percent of federal prosecutions involving immigration. White collar crime investigations account for less than 5 percent of the total number of cases being pursued by the DOJ this year.
You want to deter criminal behavior? Enforcement is critical. Yet that isn’t happening – and it hasn’t been happening on any significant scale for some time.
Even termination from these high-level posts have been rare. So bankers who engage in these fraudulent tactics that rip off taxpayers and regular consumers not only avoid jail, they get to keep their cushy jobs.
Although the economy has made some gains under Obama, a Federal Reserve analysis earlier this year indicated that half of American households would not be able to cover the cost of a $400 emergency. They would have to either borrow or sell something. Twenty-two percent of workers said they were holding down two or more jobs.
Of course, jailing bankers wasn’t a theme of Trump’s campaign. In fact, he promised to dismantle certain parts of the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act, which was a regulatory response to Wall Street’s misdeeds. However, the rhetoric of his campaign played into the narrative that the economy is rigged by a few power players. If he fails to deliver on some of the promises he made to “drain the swamp,” his chances for success in 2020 may be in jeopardy. Our consumer lawyers will be among those seeking to hold him accountable.
If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
How Letting Bankers Off the Hook May Have Tipped the Election, Nov. 11, 2016, By Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times
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