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Soft on Wall Street, Dems weak on corporate crime
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Soft on Wall Street, Dems weak on corporate crime

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Soft on Wall Street, Dems weak on corporate crime

Among the many falsehoods pushed at last week’s Democratic Convention is that this is the party of the people, unafraid to hold Corporate America responsible for its many ills.

Judging by the records of the last two Democratic administrations, just the opposite appears to be true. Certainly, President Obama and, to some extent, Bill Clinton like to talk a good game in terms of class warfare, but under both men, real corporate crime-fighting has been at best a side issue — despite the immense amounts of white-collar fraud their administrations faced.
Corzine: Well-connected Democrat is facing no charges despite losing $1.6 billion — whereas Bush team jailed Republican fat cats.

In fact, neither Obama nor Clinton can hold a candle to the corporate crime-fighting record of George W. Bush, that supposed lapdog for large corporate interests.

Consider: As we near the four-year anniversary of the financial crisis, not a single Wall Street fat cat has been charged with violations of securities laws in connection with the 2008 collapse.

Then we have the outlandish case of MF Global, the brokerage firm run into the ground nearly a year ago by Obama’s pal and campaign-cash bundler, Jon Corzine. It isn’t just that the former Goldman Sachs CEO and New Jersey governor took outsized trading risks that destroyed the firm; his firm appears to have misused and lost $1.6 billion in customer funds in the process.

Under securities laws, those customer funds were supposed to be kept sacrosanct — yet not a single MF Global employee, much less Corzine, has been charged in the matter by the Obama Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For obvious reasons, Clinton’s putrid record on corporate crime went unmentioned as he rewrote history during his speech.

(It wasn’t all that got left out as he tried to make people believe they’re doing just fine after four years of Obamanomics. He also skipped over the fact that the ’90s economy only got strong after he turned right by cutting deals with the Republicans to cut taxes and spending and to reform welfare.)

Simply put: The law-enforcement agencies under Clinton turned a blind eye to one of modern history’s biggest corporate crime waves.

Forget insider trading, where traders are basically ripping off each other. During the Clinton years, big Wall Street firms came up with new and imaginative ways to screw the average investor — who for the first time was turning to the stock market to save for retirement. Yet there wasn’t much of a peep from Bubba’s Justice Department or the corporate watchdogs at his Securities and Exchange Commission.

One such rip-off involved feeding small investors fraudulent research reports so they’d buy overvalued (and overhyped) Internet stocks — but there were many more, most of which came to light after the tech bubble burst in March 2000 and small investors lost countless billions in savings.

Those research scandals were initially uncovered by a Democrat — New York then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. But the Bush SEC shared in the enforcement of the cases.

The Bush Justice Department and SEC also started the investigations that have led to Obama’s one arguable area of success on Wall Street crime — insider-trading prosecutions. But the victims of insider trading are mostly other traders, not the average Joe — this isn’t the sort of corporate crime that ruins Main Street.

Anyway, lots else got prosecuted under Bush. The accounting fraud at Enron, a Houston-based energy company with ties to the Republican Party, brought immediate indictments against individuals like Bush friend Ken Lay. One major firm, accounting giant Arthur Andersen, was forced out of business.

The same thing with Worldcom, another accounting fraud prosecuted in the Bush era that landed its CEO in jail.

As it happens, the last major financial firm to be run out of business after being hit with criminal charges (prior to Arthur Andersen) was Drexel Burnham Lambert — and that was accomplished by President Ronald Reagan’s US attorney for Manhattan, a guy named Rudy Giuliani.

Of course, Bush’s record of corporate crime fighting was far from perfect. Much of the risk-taking that led to the 2008 collapse occurred under the nose of his regulators — but these practices started to explode during the Clinton years.

The bigger point here is that, if you’re really keeping a score card on who’s going after corporate America’s bad guys, the Democrats may talk a good game but have very little to show for it.

Keep that in mind the next time President Obama says how much he detests the Wall Street fat cats.

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