Citi's $7 Billion Settlement Good Start: What About Criminal Charges Next?
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat now wants a "can't we all just get along" approach
This week’s Citigroup settlement highlights the power of the wealth to pay hush money to escape from the criminal nature of their actions. Some will characterize the settlement as punishment for the pilfering of pensions, lifesavings and assets of hardworking people in America.
But shouldn’t the public demand a heavier penalty—including jail time—for those who stole because of greed and not need?
On Monday, Citigroup agreed to pay $7 billion for their role in the disastrous financial crisis where financial institutions engaged in risky mortgage transactions that cost many to lose their homes and destroyed their financial futures. In the agreement, Citigroup agreed to a pay a $4 billion civil penalty to the Justice Department. $500 million will go to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and some states. And some $2.5 billion is slated for “consumer relief.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said the conduct of Citigroup was “egregious” and accused them of selling mortgage-backed securities laden with multiple defects that were a major factor of the financial crisis. “The bank’s activities contributed mightily to the financial crisis that devastated our economy in 2008,” said Mr. Holder. Mr. Holder declined to say if the government would pursue criminal charges against individuals within Citigroup.
Apparently, some in Citigroup hope the settlement will end the government investigations into Citigroup’s shady practices. “We believe that this settlement is in the best interests of our shareholders,” said Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat. “And allows us to move forward and focus on the future, not the past.”
It’s very easy for those who haven’t been ruined by the money manipulation of corporate criminals to talk about moving forward and putting things in the past. But what about those who find it difficult to move on because what took them a lifetime to build has been destroyed in an instant by conniving charlatan crooks? How are many supposed to pick-up the pieces of their lives now that their lifetime of asset building has been stolen by lecherous money-changers like those at Citigroup?
If there was true justice, for all—regardless of creed, color or class considerations—these thieves would all be arrested, prosecuted and thrown in jail. Unfortunately, wealthy elites can often avoid responsibility for their harmful criminal actions because they are able to bribe and buy their way out of be punished in the manner their actions truly deserve.
Millions of parents discipline their children everyday about being law-abiding. So what message does it send when they hear parents and public figures lecture them about stealing while they see powerful people do just that because of amoral avarice? And what kind of credibility can politicians have—especially, those do-littles in Washington—when they are squeamish about punishing those guilty who have deep pockets?
The financial fiasco of 2007-2008 was one of the biggest robbery swindles in the history of humankind. Yet, why haven’t we seen any of these gangster bankers prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? What makes them exempt from facing criminal charges for their criminal conduct?
Almost any night, one will see news reports of some poor person—Black folks, in particular—being paraded in front of the press doing the perp-walk for robbery or stealing. A considerable number of these crimes will be based on some kind of economic desperation. If the “powers that be” have no problem arresting folks from economically deprived situations for stealing, why is there a different standard for the wealthy who rob millions because of a rapacious greed that is never satisfied?
These selfish, unprincipled people often decide that to build their wealth wrecking the lives of everyday people is just fine and dandy. For them, the “ends justify the means.” This very reason is why government needs to be the watchman over the wealthy—not for the wealthy. Yet, time and again we hear politicians—usually Republicans—arguing about the supposed onerous nature of regulations.
It isn’t hard to figure why most politicians have no stomach for prosecuting the powerfully privileged—these are often the same people stuffing their pockets with campaign contributions and donations. Consequently, whenever any of these wealthy Wall Street types violates the law and creates chaos in the lives of the citizenry at-large the “let’s make a deal” approach comes into effect and major league offenders get off with a slap on the wrist.
But what, pray tell is the so-called “mainstream" media’s excuse for not exposing these Wall Street master thieves of the universe?
Whenever the media want us to hate someone they dig-up everything in that person’s life. On the foreign policy front, they are adept at telling us who is the despicable despot of the day we should hate. Domestically, they are very good at giving us wall-to-wall coverage of someone—like say some celebrity, especially if they are Black—who has fallen out of favor with their idea of what is acceptable.
So why are they so derelict when it comes to stories that really matter which have adverse consequences in the lives of most people?
Think of it, does the average American know all they should about how Wall Street racketeers rig the financial system just for their benefit at the expense of the rest of us? Where are the tell-all exposes and in-depth documentaries about the: who, what, when, where and why of this historic massive theft of the American public? Shouldn’t we expect a serious press to leave no stone unturned in truthfully telling us about these Wall Street players who enriched themselves by defrauding the American public?
Recently, media have been telling us about the rise of financial indices, like the Dow Jones, NASDAQ and such. But do they really think those numbers make most people feel reassured about the future—especially since many don’t know what those numbers mean anyway? However, most are painfully aware these financial figures are only good news for the 1 percent.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Holder told a Howard University audience “We must be willing to acknowledge the problems we face, to talk frankly about inequality, and to examine its causes and its impacts and, most importantly, to act to eradicate it.” This comment by Mr. Holder is spot-on. But the American public can’t wait for politicians to engage in this—they must force politicians and punish those who do nothing more that act as apologists in acquiescence to wealthy folks who don’t give a damn about their fellow citizens.
Moreover, regular Americans need to question why American “democracy” seems to always cater to the whims of the wealthy. Haven’t we all been taught that democracy is supposed to be beneficially to the many? If this is the truth, why do so few exercise dominance of the economy? Doesn’t this suggest something is terribly wrong? Yet, many never seem to seriously question the undemocratic nature of a few folks hording off the lion share of the American economic pie.
A few years ago, we saw the anger and angst of many American emerge during the Occupy Wall Street protests. Although, many—including the mainstream media—did everything to delegitimize the righteous rage of the masses, a day will come when a fed-up people will wake-up and rise-up and stop the looting of the American commons and economy.
We should all be doing everything in our power to expedite that day.