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Acute fear of failure permeates the United States judicial system when it comes to prosecuting top-level corporate executives for malfeasance; ergo, they simply walk away without punishment. Case in point: No chieftains from the big banks went to jail for their wrongdoings in the financial crisis, and rich and powerful white-collar fraudsters in other major industries go unscathed too.
So says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jesse Eisinger, author of “The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives” (Simon & Schuster), in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
How much will President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions help remedy this situation?
We have to wait and see. But I think the Sessions regime is going to be, on order of magnitude, probably the worst Department of Justice in our lifetime. When it comes to white-collar crime, he’s already signaled his priorities [low on list], and it bodes very ill for corporate law enforcement. In addition, the circuit courts and the Supreme Court have become much more business-friendly as well.
Nor did they incur much social cost.
Right. Even their reputations weren’t particularly damaged. Lloyd Blankfein [Goldman Sachs chairman-CEO] kept his job. Jamie Dimon [JPMorgan Chase chair-president-CEO] kept his job.
What’s the SEC’s attitude about trials?
The SEC is more afraid of trials than the DOJ, which is fairly afraid of them. There needs to be a reform effort to focus on individuals, hear evidence against them in court and get them to plead guilty. The sanctions have to be serious, like lifetime bans in the securities business.
More than a third of the highest paid financial professionals have firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing, and many say compensation plans…
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