For the senior senator from Massachusetts, today is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Summer Solstice all rolled into one!
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is marking the eighth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy with a new push to investigate—and potentially jail—more than two dozen individuals and corporations who were referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution in 2011 by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a government-appointed group that investigated the roots of the 2008 financial crisis.
Happy Lehman Brothers Death Day!
With Wells Fargo lighting itself on fire and Jeb Hensarling making a huge show of his plan to incrementally neuter Dodd-Frank, Warren is using the anniversary of the birth of modern financial schadenfreude to remind everyone that no one is in prison for what went down in 2008. And furthermore, she's got some very specific ideas for who she thinks would look best in a different kind of pinstripes.
The names of the referrals—including former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, who held a top job at Citigroup, and Citigroup’s former CEO, Charles Prince—became public earlier this year when the National Archives released new documents.
In a letter to the Justice Department’s inspector general, Warren calls the lack of prosecutions “outrageous and baffling” and asks the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to investigate why no charges were brought. “[T]he DOJ record of action on these individuals, nearly six years after DOJ received the referrals, is abysmal,” she writes.
It's not breaking news that Warren wants Chuck Prince in the slammer, but it remains newsworthy that she's so focused on guys like Prince and not the usual targets like Angelo Mozilo. That said, Warren is the ultimate anti-Wall Street hipster, a true tastemaker of the movement who prefers the deep cuts to all that basic Occupy shit.
But even Warren cannot resist the simple appeal of taking some whacks on September 15th. Here's what she told Bloomberg about her frustration with FBI Director James Comey's inability to prosecute bankers whilst reading all of Hillary's State Department emails...
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Warren cited the anniversary of Lehman’s collapse as “a good occasion to stop and ask where the real accountability is and get some answers out of the Justice Department about why they haven’t prosecuted anyone.” She said Comey’s rationale for disclosing details of the Clinton investigation—Comey said it was warranted by “intense public interest”—creates a new precedent that obligates him to shed light on why the bankers and financial institutions referred by the FCIC to the Justice Department were never prosecuted. “Those same standards ought to apply to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Warren said. “There’s a clear public interest in finding out why none of these individuals or corporations were held responsible.”
Warren is nothing if not unyieldingly obsessive persistent, so it makes sense that she's re-tabling this argument two months before a presidential election. But why is there no mention that she's also doing it seven days after Wells Fargo admitted that it's community banking division behaved for years like it was doing scenes studies from a David Mamet play?
Think about it.
Warren can now use Lehman a "Ghost of Wall Street Future" for those pissed off about Wells Fargo and then pull in Hensarling's Dodd-Frank slashing to make Americans fearful that John Stumpf and his team are just going to get away with this shit. On top of that she has the personification of her ideal prey in Carrie Tolstedt. Not only is Tolstedt a mouthwateringly ideal of a financial executive that Warren would like the DOJ to pull in for questioning and a full-body scan, she's also the perfect populist foil for an argument that clawback rules should not only not be repealed but perhaps strengthened going forward.
But for that all to happen, Warren might have to give up on trying to get Washington DC to waste precious political capital on what went down at Citigroup in 2007. Sure, there was some scummy shit that even Wall Street's most vocal defenders shake their heads at, but it was forever ago in the goldfish mind of the American electorate. If Warren and her Warrenistas really want to see bankers in federally-issued jumpsuits, they should focus on the gift they've been given by Wells Fargo and forget Chuck Prince and his dancing.
Whoever ends up in the White House after this ceaseless nightmare of an election is not going to spend a moment re-litigating the bad old days of 2008, but there is a very real chance that they would be forced to go after the mind-numbingly venal stupidity evinced by Wells Fargo. Elizabeth Warren has gained an impressive amount of liberal political power by focusing on the past, but it's really high time that she spend a little more effort on the future.
So while Warren will probably never stop celebrating Lehman Brothers Death Day, she might want to open her mind to the creation of other "holidays."