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Why Not Prosecute Nonfeasant Regulators?

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On April 15, 2011 @ 7:09 am In Bailout Nation,Bailouts,Legal,Really, really bad calls,Regulation | Comments Disabled

The “Datapoint of the Day” comes from the NYT [1] column we referenced [2] yesterday: The mind-boggling drop in Justice Department criminal referrals over the past decade.

I find this specific factoid astounding:

“Data supplied by the Justice Department and compiled by a group at Syracuse University show that over the last decade, regulators have referred substantially fewer cases to criminal investigators than previously.

The university’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse indicates that in 1995, bank regulators referred 1,837 cases to the Justice Department. In 2006, that number had fallen to 75. In the four subsequent years, a period encompassing the worst of the crisis, an average of only 72 a year have been referred for criminal prosecution.”

This is more “Nonfeasance” — that is what I accused the Greenspan Fed of doing in Bailout Nation [3]. It is also what the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency did and what the Office of Thrift Supervision engaged in.

They did not do a bad job int he discharge of their duties. THEY REFUSED TO DO THEIR JOBS AT ALL. They simply refused to discharge their legal obligations, because the people in charge did not believe, philosophically, in regulations.

This is yet another crime we should be prosecuting people for. It is no different than safety regulators who failed to inspect carnival rides and 100s of children died. The bank regulators who refused to discharge their duties for ideological reasons should be prosecuted. That means investigating John Duggan and John M. Reich for nonfeasance. How are they any different from people who took payoffs from carnies and allowed children to die on unsafe rides?

Consider how bad it was under these to radical deregulators: We’ve mentioned this stat previously, but its worth repeating: Referrals for criminal prosecution plummeted under the Bush administration fell by 95%. While I have been frustrated by the poor policy and personnel choices Obama has made — and continues to make — the Bush administration was uniquely incompetent when it came to filling regulatory positions with anti-regulators. (Think Harvey “Shred-’em-before-the-subpoena-arrives” Pitt as SEC chair).

Its no surprise that these criminally negligent appointees did not do their jobs. These so-called regulators were far too cozy with the regulated. Friends, pals, drinking buddies. And so, they failed their charges, and left the taxpayer at the mercy of thieves.

• Why was John M. Reich, a former banker and Senate staff member appointed in 2005 by President George W. Bush, uninterested in prosecuting Countrywide or Angelo R. Mozilo, its chief executive? Reich said that “he was a good friend of Mozilo’s.”

• Why were FCIC investigators (during Obama’s Presidency) told “Countrywide was off limits?”

If you want to understand why the public remains so angry about the bailouts, these facts are merely frosting on the cake. The bailouts work to prevent the government from fulfilling its duties as prosecutors. Once they get in bed with banks, they refuse to do anything to “harm” that investment.

And the public gets angrier and angrier.


Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog

URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/04/justice-department-criminal-referrals/

URLs in this post:

[1] NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/business/14prosecute.html

[2] referenced: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/04/why-has-noone-gone-to-jail/

[3] Bailout Nation: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470596325/thebigpictu09-20

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