The Road to Hell Was Paved With Obama Cronyism

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

President Donald Trump’s naïve (or willfully blind) notion that Wall Street will work better at raising capital if it is unleashed from strident Federal regulation is unhinged from the facts on the ground. Those facts, as illustrated above, are that the Boards of two of the largest banks in the U.S. are utterly spineless when it comes to holding their CEOs and employees accountable in the face of a tsunami of crimes.

– From the Wall Street on Parade article: What JPMorgan and Citigroup Have in Common When It Comes to Crime

Opposition to Trump is extremely important, particularly when it comes to someone like me who sees his Wall Street love affair and disregard for civil liberties as serious threats to the nation. That said, it is absolutely imperative to see Trump as a symptom of a sick and broken system as opposed to the root cause of anything. The corporate media and legions of mourning Hillary cultists continue to present the Trump threat in extraordinarily simplistic and unhelpful terms. They act as if he’s the head of some evil snake, and that disposing of him as an individual will get America back on track. This couldn’t be more wrong.

I spent most of the Obama years warning about the dangers of his policies. I didn’t do this for kicks, or because I thought he would try to stay in power forever, but because I knew his monumental cronyism would only pave the way for major problems down the road. Well the backlash to Obama came quick, and we the people won’t do the country any good if we focus on Trump the man, as opposed to the entirely corrupt, billionaire/special interest-controlled cesspool of a society we inhabit. We need to focus on Trump’s policies, not Trump the man.

We also need to be under no illusions when it comes to the disaster that was the Obama administration, and the key role his failures played in providing the fertile ground for Trump to believe he can do whatever he wants — because Obama largely did.

As such, today’s article by Trevor Timm at the Freedom of the Press Foundation is extremely important. It provides new documentation demonstrating how the Obama administration worked tirelessly behind the scenes to prevent Congress from expanding government transparency. 

Here are a few excerpts from the article, New Documents Show the Obama Admin Aggressively Lobbied to Kill Transparency Reform in Congress”:

New documents obtained through Freedom of the Press Foundation’s lawsuit against the Justice Department reveal that the Obama administration – the self described “most transparent administration ever” – aggressively lobbied behind the scenes in 2014 to kill modest Freedom of Information Act reform that had virtually unanimous support in Congress.

Three months ago, we sued the Justice Department (DOJ) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for communications between the DOJ and Congress, since there were vague reports that the DOJ may have opposed the bill – despite much of it being based word-for-word based on the Justice Department’s own policies.

Today, we are publishing a detailed memo authored by the Justice Department that strongly objected to almost every aspect of FOIA reform put forth by the House of Representatives at the time.

The bill in question – known as the FOIA Act – was unanimously passed by the House in early 2014. The Senate passed a similar bill – known as the FOIA Improvement Act – in December of 2014, but a final vote in the House to merge the two bills was held up at the last minute by then-Speaker of the House John Boehner and the session of Congress ended before it could become law. It was unclear at the time why the bill did not come up for a final vote, but the Washington Post later reported that a few federal agencies—including the Justice Department—had “warned” lawmakers about some provisions in the bill.

But these new documents show it went well beyond that: the Justice Department vehemently objected to both House and Senate members on nearly all aspects of the bill from the very start, and made clear: “The Administration strongly opposes passage of [the FOIA Act].”Notably, the Justice Department indicates that this policy memo (published in full below) is not just the agency’s individual opinion, but that it is speaking for the entire Obama administration.

The Obama administration’s specious objections to FOIA reform were manifold. They were against codifying the Obama administration’s “presumption of openness” policy that Obama declared upon his first month in office, they were against Congress mandating that the federal government create a unified online portal to process FOIA requests, they were against mandating discipline for FOIA redactors who break any of rules or regulations for processing FOIA requests, and they were against providing more reporting and oversight to Congress to make sure FOIA was being complied with. 

The administration tried to couch some of its opposition in concern that the bill would “cause delays” in the FOIA process, despite the fact that many of the provisions were written to speed up the process, modernize the system with an online portal, and encourage proactive disclosure by making more information available to the public without even having to file a request. Concerning other provisions, the DOJ claimed the administration is not opposed in principle, but its is against seeing them codified into law — which allows the Executive Branch to delay implementation indefinitely and gives the next administration carte blanche power to rescind any good policies the Obama administration did put in place.

While the Freedom of Information Act remains a valuable tool (this lawsuit can attest to that), any reporter who has filed a FOIA request can corroborate the fact that the law is badly broken. Multiple investigations have shown that the Obama administration has been the most secretive ever when it comes to FOIA. Requests can often take years to be fulfilled if at all, and the only way to get results is to sue, like we were forced to. (We did not receive any documents for over a year from our first requests, and only received these documents after filing a lawsuit).

This summer is the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, and Congress is yet again debating a FOIA reform bill, this time with even more holes in it than last time. We hope that Congress will amend the proposed reform in the strongest possible way and send it to the president’s desk with the same message they did fifty years ago when the Johnson administration opposed it, yet was forced to sign it anyways: transparency is vital to democracy.

If I had to pick the most pernicious aspect of Obama’s entire presidency, it unquestionably would be the Department of Justice. By failing to prosecute a single bank executive, the DOJ made it clear to anyone paying attention that crime pays if you’re wealthy and powerful. With that incentive structure in place, financial crime flourished during the Obama administration, as was perfectly described in today’s article in Wall Street on ParadeWhat JPMorgan and Citigroup Have in Common When It Comes to Crime.

Here’s some of what we learned:

Jamie Dimon became the CEO of JPMorgan Chase on January 1, 2006. At that point, the bank was more than a century old and had never been charged with a criminal felony. In 2014, the Justice Department charged JPMorgan Chase with two felony counts in connection with their role in facilitating the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The bank was given a two-year deferred prosecution agreement.

The very next year, in May 2015, JPMorgan Chase was hit with a new felony count for its role in rigging foreign currency markets as part of a banking cartel. That’s three felony counts in two years and yet Jamie Dimon kept his job. Before the felony counts there was a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department and Federal and State regulators in 2013 for JPMorgan Chase’s role in selling toxic mortgage investments to investors as worthwhile products when the bank had good reason to believe they would blow up.

Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations at the time, said that the bank “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”  And, unbelievably, Jamie Dimon continued his tenure as Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

The crime spree at JPMorgan Chase became so surreal that two trial lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer, published a breathtaking book on the subject, comparing the bank to the Gambino crime family. In addition to the settlements noted above, the authors add more details as to what has occurred on Dimon’s watch, such as:

“In April 2011, JPMC agreed to pay $35 million to settle claims that it overcharged members of the military service on their mortgages in violation of the Service Members Civil Relief Act and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

“In March 2012, JPMC paid the government $659 million to settle charges that it charged veterans hidden fees in mortgage refinancing transactions.

“In October 2012, JPMC paid $1.2 billion to settle claims that it, along with other banks, conspired to set the price of credit and debit card interchange fees.

“On January 7, 2013, JPMC announced that it had agreed to a settlement with the Office of the Controller of the Currency (‘OCC’) and the Federal Reserve Bank of charges that it had engaged in improper foreclosure practices.

“In September 2013, JPMC agreed to pay $80 million in fines and $309 million in refunds to customers whom the bank billed for credit monitoring services that the bank never provided.

“On December 13, 2013, JPMC agreed to pay 79.9 million Euros to settle claims of the European Commission relating to illegal rigging of benchmark interest rates.

“In February 2012, JPMC agreed to pay $110 million to settle claims that it overcharged customers for overdraft fees.

“In November 2012, JPMC paid $296,900,000 to the SEC to settle claims that it misstated information about the delinquency status of its mortgage portfolio.

“In July 2013, JPMC paid $410 million to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to settle claims of bidding manipulation of California and Midwest electricity markets.

“In December 2013, JPMC paid $22.1 million to settle claims that the bank imposed expensive and unnecessary flood insurance on homeowners whose mortgages the bank serviced.”

Interesting how Jamie Dimon seemed to think being crowned “Obama’s favorite banker” entitled him to a multi-year crime spree.

Let’s now turn to Citigroup.

Michael Corbat has been CEO of Citigroup since October 2012. Below is just a sampling of the regulatory charges against the bank under Corbat’s reign, including a guilty plea to a felony count in May 2015 which covered conduct that continued after Corbat took the helm.

July 1, 2013: Citigroup agrees to pay Fannie Mae $968 million for selling it toxic mortgage loans.

September 25, 2013: Citigroup agrees to pay Freddie Mac $395 million to settle claims it sold it toxic mortgages.

December 4, 2013: Citigroup admits to participating in the Yen Libor financial derivatives cartel to the European Commission and accepts a fine of $95 million.

July 14, 2014: The U.S. Department of Justice announces a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup for selling toxic mortgages to investors. Attorney General Eric Holder called the bank’s conduct “egregious,” adding, “As a result of their assurances that toxic financial products were sound, Citigroup was able to expand its market share and increase profits.”

November 2014: Citigroup pays more than $1 billion to settle civil allegations with regulators that it manipulated foreign currency markets. Other global banks settled at the same time.

May 20, 2015: Citicorp, a unit of Citigroup becomes an admitted felon by pleading guilty to a felony charge in the matter of rigging foreign currency trading, paying a fine of $925 million to the Justice Department and $342 million to the Federal Reserve for a total of $1.267 billion.

May 25, 2016: Citigroup agrees to pay $425 million to resolve claims brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that it had rigged interest-rate benchmarks, including ISDAfix, from 2007 to 2012.

July 12, 2016: The Securities and Exchange Commission fined Citigroup Global Markets Inc. $7 million for failure to provide accurate trading records over a period of 15 years.

President Donald Trump’s naïve (or willfully blind) notion that Wall Street will work better at raising capital if it is unleashed from strident Federal regulation is unhinged from the facts on the ground. Those facts, as illustrated above, are that the Boards of two of the largest banks in the U.S. are utterly spineless when it comes to holding their CEOs and employees accountable in the face of a tsunami of crimes.

While it’s unquestionably true that Donald Trump is a gigantic Wall Street-coddler, so was Obama. When it comes to the real power running this country, no one dares take on the financial criminals. Not even Trump, despite all his big talk.

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  • LeseMajeste

    Those TBTF Wall Street casinos are what the Mafia would call, ‘made men.’ In other words, no one gets to screw with the banks because the ‘Godfather of Crime,’ the CIA, has said they are off limits. Off limits because those same banks are in bed with the world’s biggest narco-trafficer, the CIA, who needs the banks to launder the huge sums of money the CIA gets from its Afghan heroin and S. America cocaine operations.

  • ICFubar

    The banking fraternity has been building their control and power base for 350 years, ever since they instituted their first central bank, the Bank of England in July of 1694. By gaining ownership of national currencies the bankers have been able to control their respective national hosts. Now they have banded these separate central banks, that these apex bankers own the preferred shares of, into an international entity (Bank of International Settlements). By operating central banks in unison these apex bankers to seek the completion of national sovereign subjugation under international law advanced through various corporate rights law, billed under free trade agreements law and through U.N. resolutions standing as hard law to the various national signatories, who are in turn controlled at the national level by the bankers agency of owning national central banks controlling national currencies. Does anyone think this death grip over sovereign national entities can be pushed back by the likes of any politician without the massive support of a majority of the public and at an international level ( or war is brought to bear against the break away people)? Even the hint of reducing or even holding the present status quo by a politician is now enough to swing the bankers machinery into action against any such politician as the bankers are now so near to attaining their long sought goal of controlling the entire planet. TISA (Trade in Services Agreement) promises to drive the final nail into the coffin of national sovereignty, subjugated to the banker’s world vision, which from past experience under banker dominated national governments we know will not be good for the people of this planet. The simple question is ,are these the type of people we want to see the peoples of this world united under their control?

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  • animalogic

    This is systemic corruption. Worse: it’s corruption that has been legitimised as minor misdemeanors.
    It has the ring of doom about it. It’s symptomatic of a moribund culture.

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