Sunday, February 21, 2016

Warren Report Criticizes Obama Administration's Failure to Prosecute Corporate Crimes

By Mario Vasquez, Truthout | News Analysis

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 17, 2015. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)
 Controversy erupted after the recent Democratic presidential debate when Hillary Clinton accused Bernie Sanders of criticizing President Obama. However, Sanders is hardly the only prominent Democrat to have recently questioned some of the president's actions. In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) released a 12-page booklet titled "Rigged Justice," which highlights 20 cases of lax corporate law enforcement in 2015, saying:
The Obama Administration has made repeated promises to strengthen enforcement and hold corporate criminals accountable, and the DOJ [US Department of Justice] announced in September that it would place greater emphasis on charging individuals responsible for corporate crimes. Nonetheless, both before and after this DOJ announcement, accountability for corporate crimes is shockingly weak.
Warren's report covers a far-reaching cast of culprits, from Standard & Poor's to General Motors. Taken with its timing and the competitive state of the Democratic Party primary, Warren's report, and The New York Times op-ed she wrote about the report, read like a subtle endorsement of Sanders - or at least a primer on what the hypothetical Warren-Clinton Democratic Party primary election that so many progressives clamored for in early 2015 would have been like.
"Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws," Warren wrote in the Times, claiming that the Obama administration fell short of meaningful prosecution of major misconduct by corporations and people running them.
In an interview with International Business Times to publicize the report, Warrensaid, "In the financial crisis of 2008, it was fraud right down at the heart of that crisis, and yet not one major bank executive was even charged, much less prosecuted and taken to trial - not one." Despite assurances by the Department of Justice that it will improve enforcement, Warren's report suggests that corporate criminals have "free rein to operate outside the law" because the accountability is just not there. The report is resonant with Warren's praise of Sanders' attacks on Wall Street and the "rigging" of the system.
The relationships between Hillary Clinton and certain wrongdoers named within Warren's report accent the increasingly common perception that the Clinton candidacy is particularly sensitive to the interests of bankers and corporations. For example, UBS, one of five banks that in 2015 paid a combined $5 billion in settlements with the Department of Justice, pled guilty to wire fraud charges in connection with interest rate manipulation. The sentencing lacked prosecution of individuals behind these directives, making UBS's punishment more symbolic than anything, according to "Rigged Justice."
As The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015, UBS's donations to the Clinton Foundation - the Clintons' philanthropic organization - as well as the bank's requests for paid speeches by former President Bill Clinton, grew rapidly after then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped the Swiss bank settle a lawsuit with the Internal Revenue Service. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic wrote of former President Clinton's $1.5 million in speaking fees from UBS: "If you're Bill Clinton and your wife has recently intervened, in her capacity as a cabinet secretary, to help a giant corporation avert a significant threat to its bottom-line, the very least you could do, if only to avoid the appearance of impropriety, is to avoid negotiating seven-figure paydays with that same corporation."
Goldman Sachs is also included in the Warren report. Sanders specifically targeted the company in the lead-up to elections in Iowa and New Hampshire for the$675,000 the bank paid Hillary Clinton for speeches after she left the US State Department. (Other entities named in the report that have paid Clinton for speechesinclude Deutsche Bank and UBS.) Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street giant and one of the financial firms in the middle of what Warren calls the "fraud at the heart" of the 2008 economic downturn, owns 41 percent of the second-largest for-profit education company in the country, the Education Management Corporation (EDMC).

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