The December 10th issue of The Economist said, “The emerging Trump strategy towards business has some promising elements, but others that are deeply troubling.” I agree.
In his campaign, Mr. Trump slammed Wall Street and Goldman Sachs, however his actions seem to bely his previous position. From the early days of his campaign, one of Donald Trump’s rallying cries was to “beware of Wall Street… I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder; Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us.”
Yet as a post on PBS News Hour asks, “Does a Wall Street Cabinet discredit Trump’s Main Street Message?”
It appears that Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with Wall Street, with now three Goldman Sachs appointees.
Mr. Trump repeatedly attacked Goldman Sachs in his campaign rhetoric, yet his choices of Steve Mnuchin, Steve Bannon and now Gary Cohn for the Directorship of the National Economic Council, cause concerns about his promises, raising eyebrows. He repeatedly cited Goldman as evidence that corporate and financial interests have influence over politicians and made promises to rid the government of influence from the wealthy and powerful. Wall Street however, has largely cheered Trump’s administration for his promises to roll back financial regulations and cut corporate taxes.
Is the message being sent that, once again, Wall Street rules? If so, how will that influence Senator Jeff Sessions, (R-AL), newly appointed to the Attorney General position? As the chief law enforcement officer for the U.S. government, Mr. Sessions will have the opportunity to reverse former Attorney General Eric Holder’s non-prosecution of the banks responsible for the 2008 financial debacle, or not.
If the Wall Street influence in the Cabinet exerts an anti-prosecution stance, what will Mr. Sessions actually do? Many of us are concerned. My colleague and Bank Whistleblowers United co-founder Michael Winston is deeply troubled. Michael Winston recently asked, “Why have no CEO’s been punished for the financial crisis?”
In the article he states, “Nearly a decade after the fraud and irresponsible actions at Wall Street banks, Countrywide Financial and other companies brought the nation to the brink of total economic collapse, there have been no prosecutions against their key executives. Is our justice system incapable of pressing these cases to their rightful conclusion? Or just unwilling?”
He reminds us that, to date, not one of the executives of the companies that caused the 2008 financial debacle has yet to be prosecuted or truly held accountable, in stark contrast to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980’s where 1,100 individuals, including top bank executives, were prosecuted and served jail time, along with executives from companies like Enron and WorldCom.
“As a result of these failures to prosecute, the banks are unafraid, unpunished and unapologetic. They no longer hope for support of their corrupt behavior. They expect it… People need to know that the game is not fully rigged, that the rule of law does still exist, and that even when committed by powerful people in the highest places, crimes of magnitude will not go unpunished.”
With Wall Street so prominent in the President’s cabinet, will Mr. Sessions take a tough stance? Will he follow through on what his predecessor Eric Holder promised and did not deliver on, with no prosecutions sending a strong message that criminality is acceptable? Commit wrongdoing and you go to jail is a mighty deterrent!
It certainly was not because of lack of evidence that there were no prosecutions. The FCIC made 11 criminal referrals, including one referral based solely on my testimony and evidence. Yet under Holder, the DOJ ignored all of the referrals and instead got large settlements from the banks involved and then turned around and sealed all of the evidence so the public would not see how blatant and pervasive this massive fraud actually was which brought our economy to its knees.
While Mr. Sessions voted with 25 other senators against the Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the bank bailout bill, saying “it undermines our heritage of law and order, and is an affront to the principle of separation of powers,” will he be swayed by the TBTF lobby?
Mr. Trump was elected on a “law and order” platform. The question is, will he follow through on his promises? The TBTF lobby that appears to be a growing factor in Mr. Trump’s cabinet needs to be watched. Mr. Sessions will determine whether we will continue the hands off, let Wall Street pillage and plunder policies that encourage fraud.