Preventing the Next Banking Crisis: Let’s Talk About Fraud

A column by Paul Krugman argues Clinton’s financial regulation strategy is better than Sanders’, though he argues it’s a pretty small difference (boldface mine):

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had an argument about financial regulation during Tuesday’s debate — but it wasn’t about whether to crack down on banks. Instead, it was about whose plan was tougher. The contrast with Republicans like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, who have pledged to reverse even the moderate financial reforms enacted in 2010, couldn’t be stronger.

For what it’s worth, Mrs. Clinton had the better case. Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.

But is Mrs. Clinton’s promise to take a tough line on the financial industry credible? Or would she, once in the White House, return to the finance-friendly, deregulatory policies of the 1990s?

…If a Democrat does win, does it matter much which one it is? Probably not. Any Democrat is likely to retain the financial reforms of 2010, and seek to stiffen them where possible. But major new reforms will be blocked until and unless Democrats regain control of both houses of Congress, which isn’t likely to happen for a long time.

In other words, while there are some differences in financial policy between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, as a practical matter they’re trivial compared with the yawning gulf with Republicans.

Leaving aside the issue of Glass-Steagal–I think there’s an argument to be made that had derivatives not been deregulated and thus blown up first, the absence of Glass-Steagal would have become a problem–the real difference is about the criminal prosecution of financial fraud.

What goes missing in many of these discussions, including Krugman’s, is that the collapse of Big Shitpile was a massive case of fraud–actually multiple different kinds of fraud. We had appraisal fraud, loan origination fraud, misrepresentation of bundled assets, and title fraud, along with the presentation of false documents in procedural hearings.

These are not traditional policy problems. These are multiple (many multiple) frauds–that is to say, criminal acts. And during the Obama Administration, there has been no prosecution for these acts. If nothing else, prosecution removes the current crop of fraudsters. This is not just about the pursuit of justice, but prosecution is also a great way to prevent, or at least retard the onset of, the next banking crisis. The ‘banking system’ did not commit and enable these criminal acts, individual bankers did.

I realize that in 21st century America, personal responsibility is still the sole purview of poor, single, minority mothers, but enlightened self-interest would dictate a hard line against those who commit fraud.

Which candidate do you think would be more likely to appoint an attorney general that would pursue these cases?

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1 Response to Preventing the Next Banking Crisis: Let’s Talk About Fraud

  1. Min says:

    Right. You don’t get such a massive crisis without a great deal of fraud. See Bill Black on Bill Moyer’s Journal. http://billmoyers.com/content/william-k-black-on-u-s-financial-fraud/

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