JESSE EISINGER, The New York Times
Submitted by: John Gilbert
Only One Banker Went to Jail for Financial Meltdown
[NYT] Federal prosecutors have their own explanation for how only one Wall Street executive landed in jail in the wake of the financial crisis. The cases were complex to investigate and would have been infernally difficult to explain to juries, some told me. Much of the crisis and banker transgressions stemmed from recklessness, not criminality. They also suggest that deferred prosecutions — with their billions in settlements and additional oversights — can be stricter punishments than indictments. Still, while the Department of Justice has not been without its successes — it won a guilty plea from BP in the Deepwater Horizon spill, and it’s currently going after traders in the wake of the JPMorgan Chase London Whale trading loss — these remain exceptions even beyond the financial sector. Federal prosecutors almost never bring criminal charges against top executives of large corporations, from banking to pharmaceuticals to technology. In March, the Justice Department entered into a deferred prosecution against Toyota but did not indict the company or any top executives. As the economy limps back from the Great Recession, compensation has recovered, corporate profits are at record levels and executives see that few, if any, of their peers ever go to prison anymore. Perhaps one reason Americans have come to begrudge the wealthy is a resentment of their culture of impunity.