Thursday, December 5, 2013

First Fake Trial of Latest American Crime Syndicate/Mafia (Not Just Italians) Forget Double Down Here’s the Real Story of the 2012 Election



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Jon Stewart, quoting Mad Men's Don Draper, on corporate justice: ‘Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the nominal fine’

It's always psychically beneficial to turn our attention every now and then to the "movers and shakers" funding our underworld leadership. Let's face it - if an incredibly powerful American crime syndicate is not funding a lot of the corruption that we know we are surrounded by today (just watch the "News!"), then why would there be so few penalties when they get caught? It's like watching small vignettes from The Godfather movies without being able to enjoy the acting chops of Brando or Pacino. After all, we're very aware now that consuming a marijuana cigarette will actually put you in prison (even if you might be using it to relieve your terminal cancer pain). It's only fair in this land of you-better-be-brave (and no longer free).

What else will it take to awaken the citizenry? Paul Revere has come and gone. And the tyranny he was warning US about then seems like peanuts to that of now.

. . . Few of the bad guys in this world ever even get interviewed by the authorities, much less indicted, so trials are comically rare.

But we did have one last year, a big one, and though it was boring and jargon-laden enough on the surface that at least one juror fought sleep in its opening days, I thought it was fascinating. In a story about the Justice Department's Spring 2012 prosecution of a wide-raging municipal bond bid-rigging case, I called it the "first trial of the modern American mafia":


"Of course, you won't hear about the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that . . . But this just completed trial in downtown New York . . . allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street."

. . . The case was over 10 years in the making and involved offenses that took place long before the 2008 crash. All three defendants were convicted in May 2012, with Goldberg ultimately getting four years and the other two getting three.


Now, they're all free. A New York federal judge last week ordered their convictions overturned in a quiet Thanksgiving-week transaction.

The GE Muni-riggers will now join such luminaries as the Gen Re defendants (executives from an insurance company who were convicted in 2008 of helping AIG conduct a fraudulent accounting transaction) and the KPMG defendants (executives of the U.S. arm of the Dutch accounting giant who were convicted in the 2000's of selling illegal tax shelters) in the ranks of Wall Street line-crossers who improbably made it all the way to guilty verdicts in criminal cases, only to be freed on technicalities later on.

As one antitrust lawyer I know put it: "Apparently, the government can't seem to get criminal trials involving financial executives (as opposed to, well, drug dealers) right. Go figure."

These guys have gotten away with so much financial mayhem already, is it any wonder that they have laid plans to take over running the entire country?

Another Batch of Wall Street Villains Freed on Technicality


By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

05 December 13

love covering trials, which is one reason I've been a little sad since switching over to the Wall Street beat: Few of the bad guys in this world ever even get interviewed by the authorities, much less indicted, so trials are comically rare.

Read it all here.


Assuming that contributions over $500 come largely from the one percent, the paper finds that no less than 59 percent of Obama’s funding, and 79 percent of Romney’s, emanates from that small sliver of society. This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama’s middle-class constituency against Romney’s plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair.

. . . it was the surveillance state, doubling down on a president many initially supported because they thought he’d rein in an out-of-control system of secrets and spies. As Edward Snowden has shown us with abundance, they knew what they were doing.

And speaking of these funders . . . on another little-understood (by regular citizens, at least) history front, we have a chance in the next essay to actually learn and comprehend the figures ($$$$$$$ donations, that is) behind the real story of the 2012 election. Good to know there are still reporters working to reveal the facts, isn't it? Wonder if any real reporting will be allowed during the 2016 election after this as I'm sure it won't cause any smiles among the money-grabber (extortion) class?

Saturday, Nov 30, 2013

Forget “Double Down” Here’s the Real Story of the 2012 Election


The takeaway from Obama-Romney is not debates or golf games. It's a tale about the surveillance state and 1 percent

Elias Isquith

While most people at least intuitively understand that big-time political campaigns are financed largely by the very wealthy, Ferguson and his co-authors’ paper reveals the degree to which these national operations are funded by a vanishingly small number of people. “We really are dealing with a system that is of, by, and for the one percent — or the one-and-a-half percent,” Ferguson told Salon in a recent interview.

And the numbers bear him out. Assuming that contributions over $500 come largely from the one percent, the paper finds that no less than 59 percent of Obama’s funding, and 79 percent of Romney’s, emanates from that small sliver of society. This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama’s middle-class constituency against Romney’s plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair.

Even on that score, however, the lines of demarcation are fuzzy at best. It’s undeniable that Romney was more popular among big business than Obama, but the differences between the two were smaller than you’d imagine. In fact, the authors “suspect” that “the president probably enjoyed substantially higher levels of support within big business than most other modern Democratic presidential candidates, even those running for reelection.”

Obama got walloped when it comes to what you could call Koch brother industries — oil, gas, plastics, etc. — but he did OK with Wall Street and, especially, the telecom and tech industries.

It’s that last point — Obama’s popularity among the industries that make up the surveillance state — that forms the most surprising and relevant takeaway of the paper. In the wake of the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden of a national security state-turned-surveillance behemoth, the level of financial support the president enjoys from the industries working with the government to spy on Americans starts to make sense.

But to compare this synchronicity to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and its pledges to rein in and civilize the Bush-Cheney post-9/11 national security leviathan, is to risk vertigo.


The distressing conclusion to be drawn from all this is that those interested in truly curtailing the surveillance state will find few friends within the two-party system. Democrats, after all, were supposed to be the ones who were more cautious, pragmatic, and civil liberties-minded when it came to surveillance. Voicing a sentiment that’s no doubt still held by many, if not most, Ferguson told Salon that, prior to his research, he “thought there was more distance between the Democrats and the Republicans on the National Security State.”

That distance, if it ever was significant, is certainly gone now.

It turns out, then, that Halperin and Heilemann weren’t wrong to call their book “Double Down” — they were just wrong about who was doing the doubling. It wasn’t so much Barack Obama or Mitt Romney; and it wasn’t so much the American people.


Instead, it was the surveillance state, doubling down on a president many initially supported because they thought he’d rein in an out-of-control system of secrets and spies. As Edward Snowden has shown us with abundance, they knew what they were doing.

 Elias Isquith is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

More Welfare for Wall Street: One-in-Three Bank Tellers Need Public Assistance

- Moyers & Company

Big banks eating up taxpayer subsidies isn’t a new story. We heard a lot about the hundreds of billions of dollars doled out to Wall Street in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). And a May analysis by Bloomberg News estimated that the six largest banks alone had scooped up over $100 billion more in subsidies since 2009.

But a new study finds that we’re also subsidizing their profits by keeping their low-wage workforce out of poverty.

. . . Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.

Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks. The workers collect $105 million in food stamps, $250 million through the earned income tax credit and $534 million by way of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center.

The center provided the data to the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of labor advocacy groups that published the broader study, to be released Wednesday, on the conditions of bank workers in the heart of the financial industry, New York. In the that state alone, 39 percent of tellers and their family members are enrolled in some form of public assistance program, the data show.

“This is the wealthiest and most powerful industry in the world, and it’s substantially subsidized by our tax dollars, money that we could be spending on child care or pre-K,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director at Make the Road New York, one of four coalition members.


It's almost a relief, isn't it, to find out that this crime spree is hitting us everywhere (making it easier to monitor)? And orchestrated by our favorite charity cases?

Actually, making it impossible to ignore.

Eternal vigilance is still needed and Jon Stewart tells us why.

Seems that the deal now is "heavy settling." The financial crooks (the bad boys!) give the government a portion of the take, for which, they serve no time and have to admit no wrongdoing.

And you know where the taxpayers take it.

Sweet deal!





And if you really want to read Matt Taibbi's whole prose essay here . . .

Another Batch of Wall Street Villains Freed on Technicality


By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

05 December 13

love covering trials, which is one reason I've been a little sad since switching over to the Wall Street beat: Few of the bad guys in this world ever even get interviewed by the authorities, much less indicted, so trials are comically rare.

But we did have one last year, a big one, and though it was boring and jargon-laden enough on the surface that at least one juror fought sleep in its opening days, I thought it was fascinating. In a story about the Justice Department's Spring 2012 prosecution of a wide-raging municipal bond bid-rigging case, I called it the "first trial of the modern American mafia":


"Of course, you won't hear about the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that . . . But this just completed trial in downtown New York . . . allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street."

Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm were mid-level players who worked for GE Capital. They were involved in a wide-ranging scheme (one that also involved most of America's biggest banks, from Chase to BOA to Wachovia) to skim billions of dollars from America's cities and towns by rigging the auctions banks set up to help towns earn the highest returns on the management of municipal bond issues.

The case was over 10 years in the making and involved offenses that took place long before the 2008 crash. All three defendants were convicted in May 2012, with Goldberg ultimately getting four years and the other two getting three.

Now, they're all free. A New York federal judge last week ordered their convictions overturned in a quiet Thanksgiving-week transaction.

The GE Muni-riggers will now join such luminaries as the Gen Re defendants (executives from an insurance company who were convicted in 2008 of helping AIG conduct a fraudulent accounting transaction) and the KPMG defendants (executives of the U.S. arm of the Dutch accounting giant who were convicted in the 2000's of selling illegal tax shelters) in the ranks of Wall Street line-crossers who improbably made it all the way to guilty verdicts in criminal cases, only to be freed on technicalities later on.

As one antitrust lawyer I know put it: "Apparently, the government can't seem to get criminal trials involving financial executives (as opposed to, well, drug dealers) right. Go figure."

In this case, the defendants were shielded by the sheer complexity of the case. It would appear that the state took so long sorting through the mountains of recorded conversations and interviews to find the massive but well-camouflaged crime - these men, along with others like them in other banks, were using code words to rig the auction process so that banks and finance companies could collude and bid lower for city and town money management business - that the statute of limitations ran out on their own individual actions. When that happened, the Feds then switched up and charged them with different crimes related to what they claimed was an ongoing conspiracy, using continuing interest payments to establish the "ongoing" part of the indictment.

According to the lawyers for the three men, this allowed the government to unfairly bypass the statute of limitations. The lawyers for two of the men gave statements that recalled the heartwarming courthouse-steps speeches given by attorneys for genuine innocents, freed from prison after years of suffering by DNA results.

"We feel gratified by the Second Circuit's order, which allowed Steve Goldberg to be freed in time for Thanksgiving with his family," said David Frederick, Goldberg's attorney.

There are two important reasons why Wall Street defendants tend to slink out of convictions more easily than, say, drug dealers or burglars. Both reasons showed loudly in this case.

One is obvious. The Wall Street types have better lawyers. They don't miss anything and they all have gigantic balls (or are paid to have them, anyway). In this case, who knows, the court might even have been technically right in its decision. But it needed to be led there by lawyers with the skill to pull it off.

The argument in this case was relatively straightforward, as the government itself admitted it missed the deadline to charge the defendants based upon their own actions. But in the KPMG case, for instance, the court had to be convinced that an official Department of Justice policy for securing cooperation from corporate targets - one originally dreamed up by Eric Holder in the Clinton years, incidentally - was inherently violative of defendants' rights to counsel. That was a long bomb of a legal argument and in that case the KPMG lawyers hit the court right in the hands.

So unlike street-crime cases - where prosecutors screw up all the time but overworked defense counsel rarely have the time or the resources to call them on their mistakes - in these finance-sector cases, no error ever goes unnoticed.

It's one of the reasons prosecutors don't like to bring these cases at all. You make one misstep, and the whole case goes away - in this case, 10 years of work by God knows how many lawyers and investigators goes down the drain, with the snap of a finger. Imagine the last time you lost a paper thanks to a computer error, multiply that feeling by about 10 billion, and you might get close to grasping the horror of the DOJ prosecutors in this case this week.

The other reason these cases get overturned so much is equally obvious. These scandals are crazily complex. It's not just juries that have a hard time sorting them out. In many cases the crimes are so subtle, and the standard of proof to even call the crimes crimes is so high, that it takes years and years for investigators to build cases.

You can send a guy away for life on a murder charge based on a speck of blood and an old lady who saw a piece of a license number on a car screeching away from the scene. But you need to build a massive rhetorical case from scratch just to indict someone for being part of a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy.

The crimes take place in a world unknown to ordinary people, so it is not unlike trying to explain a crime committed by aliens on another planet. In fact, the crime, in many cases, is not one that has even been seen in American courtroom before.

Judges need to be convinced they're not wasting their time. Juries need to be walked by the hand down a very deep rabbit-hole of inscrutable paper transactions and then literally trained on the fly to recognize evidence - these trials are often more like seminars than court cases.

So bringing these cases takes forever. This one took forever. And in the end, for these three anyway, it was all for nothing.

The Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm case was important on a number of levels. Many years from now, we will look back on this story that began as far back as the late Nineties and recognize in it an early, smaller-scale preview of the major global manipulation/collusion scandals that have already rocked the planet and will likely continue to do so in the years to come.

After all, the most dangerous possible consequence of the extreme concentration of financial power that has taken place in the last few decades has always been the possibility that these giants might figure out ways to work together, to game the costs of things for the rest of us. That's what took place in this case, as these defendants (and many big banks which have already settled with the state for similar actions) were caught colluding to skim from the investment returns owed to all of us local taxpayers.

Something similar also took place in the Libor case, and in the global currency exchange scandal now blowing up, and in numerous other manipulation cases (involving everything from metals to chocolate) already coming down the pipeline.
All of these cases will share the same features. The defendants, if there will be any, will have the best lawyers money can buy. And if they're charged at all, it will be for the most complex crimes imaginable, offenses so convoluted that it will take years to make cases.

This carries serious risks for anyone trying for justice, and we've just seen what those risks are. It's hard to put these guys away. It's even harder to keep them there.


2 comments:

TONY said...

A latter-day 'American Tabloid'....

Cirze said...

U.S. is now a "Tabloid Society".

Because of freedom, liberty, rights . . . .

Or something.