“Chicanery and Darkness Were Their Stoutest Allies"
Even as recent announcements proclaimed the technical end of the Great Recession for Wall Street, the rate of unemployment in the United States passed the ten percent mark, reflecting a level of misery our local California Street had not borne since 1983. Even as they scramble to save their jobs, their homes, and their health in a new reality, it’s a safe bet millions of Americans don’t honestly know what hit them this past year. Enter Thomas Greene and his merry men, the latest champions of the people’s business.
Without a thorough and truthful finding of the whats-whos-whens-wheres-whys and hows surrounding this past year of woe, we will remain helpless to prevent future economic catastrophes, warnings of which are already beginning to surface in the business press. And for those with an understanding that “something is very rotten in Denmark ,” this nation’s spirit – let alone its economy - will have taken a hit from which it may not recover.
The last president, who presided happily over the final sacking of Wall Street, used vague and hollow language to cover his backside until he could scurry out of town: “We've seen triple-digit swings in the stock market. Major financial institutions have teetered on the edge of collapse, and some have failed. As uncertainty has grown, many banks have restricted lending, credit markets have frozen, and families and businesses have found it harder to borrow money.” A patch of bad luck I guess, heh heh.
Make no mistake about it, this was a crime. In fact, it was a crime wave, arguably the biggest in all of white-collar crime wave history. And that’s saying something.
The last time something like this happened, the American people put two and two together and pressured President Herbert Hoover to appoint an investigatory commission that came to be known by the name of its chief counsel, Ferdinand Pecora. The investigation into the 1929 crash of Wall Street proceeded from April 1932 until Pecora submitted his findings in May 1934. Equipped with full power to compel records and testimony from anyone it chose, the Pecora Commission provided the reading public with frequent fireworks, such as the confession under oath by J.P. Morgan and other Wall Street titans that they had not paid a dime in income taxes for two years.
The Pecora Commission contributed specific information about systematic corruption in the stock market, showing how those at the top took full advantage of the hidden nature of their transactions. “Had there been full disclosure of what was being done in furtherance of these schemes, they could not long have survived the fierce light of publicity and criticism. Legal chicanery and pitch darkness were the banker's stoutest allies" Pecora wrote in his memoir, Wall Street Under Oath.
Materially, the Pecora Commissioned supplied the political will for the birth of the banksters’ worst nightmare: major legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Banking Act to separate commercial and investment banking, the Securities Act to set penalties for filing false information about stock offerings, and the Securities Exchange Act, which formed the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate the stock exchanges. It is instructive to consider that financial lobbyists and like-minded members of Congress have attacked, weakened, and in the case of Glass-Steagall, abolished all of this controlling legislation in the decades since the 1930s.
On May 20, 2009 President Barack Obama signed into creation the Financial Crisis Investigation Commission, with a final report to Congress due on December 15, 2010. Ominously, where the Pecora Commission was allowed over two years to make its report, it has taken until this fall just to appoint commissioners and organize a staff under the direction of Thomas Greene, a veteran of the California Attorney General’s office. It remains to be seen whether Greene and Co. can navigate the intense pushback he will encounter if the trail leads to very high places and – you heard it here first - it most assuredly will.
This will also be yet another defining test for the new president. One needs look no further than his own financial team, including Obama's chief economic adviser and the secretaries of the Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank, to find major players in the Wall Street scam that has cost us so dearly.
Citizens have a right to demand a complete reform of the system that is so obviously broken. As I write, the exact same “too big to fail” bankers go merrily on their way, utilizing the same derivatives, the same credit default swaps, insider information, campaign donations, lobbying firms, and above all, secrecy - that landed us where we are today. Just as the crusaders of the free market tore down protections against their greed, so must we expose and destroy forever their tools of deceit and ruin.
Dave Wheelock, a member of the Oneida Nation living in Socorro, suggests a look at NewDeal20.org. This article originally appeared in the Mountain Mail, and is reprinted here with the permission of the author. Copyright 2009, Dave Wheelock; all rights reserved. Mr. Wheelock's views do not necessarily represent those of Socorro News, but frequently do.