Bill Black knows banks.
As a federal litigator in the late 1980s, Bill Black played a central role in prosecuting the corruption responsible for the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s. Since then he’s become one of America’s top experts on financial fraud, which he see as endemic to the modern financial system.
In this interview, Black expresses his lament that the U.S. has descended into a type of crony capitalism that makes continued fraud a virtual certainty while increasingly neutering the safeguards intended to prevent and punish such abuse. This was not the case when Black was a regulator. In the aftermath of the S&L crisis, the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision brought 3,000 lawsuits against identified perpetrators. In a number of cases, the OTS was able to claw back the funds and profits that the convicted parties had fraudulently obtained.
Fast forward to the 2008 financial collapse, in which the losses related to the household sector alone were over 70 times greater than they were during heart of the S&L crisis. The fraud was rampant and fairly obvious. Yet how many criminal referrals did the OTS make?
What happened? Why has the OTS and other regulators allowed the same managements that crashed the mortgage market and dragged down the global financial markets with them to remain unprosecuted and free to continue looting the system?
To be sure, some of the fraudulent activity has been exposed, and the top banks have paid numerous fines for bad behavior. There have been a lot of settlements and civil cases, indicating that fraud was rampant. But in finance, you can always make more money. Prosecutions, on the other hand, get everyone’s attention.
Yet, Washington has been paralyzed. The U.S. attorney general has not begun a single investigation of criminal behavior by top management at major multinational banks. Seemingly there’s no real punishment for major misbehavior in the financial markets anymore.
In this interview, Black names names and highlights the extent of the government’s complicity in extending this disgraceful state of affairs.