By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: December 11, 2017
In 2012, the Sentencing Project released a study that estimated that 5.85 million people would be ineligible to vote in the U.S. Presidential election that year because they had been convicted of a felony. In 22 states, felons lose their voting rights during incarceration, and for a set period of time thereafter. Usually, this includes while the individual is on parole and/or probation.
Eleven states in the U.S. are more harsh. They deny voting rights to felons who have served their time in prison and have successfully completed parole and probation.
If you’re a citizen of the United States and commit a felony, it’s a big deal. If you’re a Wall Street bank and commit a felony, it’s business as usual.
In January 2014, JPMorgan Chase was charged with two felony counts by the U.S. Department of Justice for its involvement with Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme but given a deferred prosecution agreement, meaning if it kept out of trouble for two years, the government would dismiss the charges. The bank also agreed to pay $1.7 billion into a restitution fund for the victims of Madoff’s fraud.
After reading the documents released by the Justice Department in connection with the settlement, the Los Angeles Times asked in a photo caption: “Bernie Madoff: Was he part of the JPMorgan ring, or was JPMorgan part of his ring?”
The Los Angeles Times had an excellent basis for asking that question. We took an in-depth look at the documents and exhibits released by both the Justice Department and the Trustee of the Madoff victims’ fund, Irving Picard, and found a labyrinthine series of frauds within frauds involving both Madoff and JPMorgan Chase. (See our article: JPMorgan and Madoff Were Facilitating Nesting Dolls-Style Frauds Within Frauds.)
Michael Hiltzik, an outraged reporter at the Los Angeles Times, had this to say about the deal that JPMorgan Chase was able to cut with Federal prosecutors:
“If the government were really determined to root out white-collar crime and prevent outfits like JPMorgan from condoning lawbreaking that unfolds in front of its own eyes, it had the tools to do so: Indict the bank executives and officials who knew Madoff was crooked and did nothing, and threaten to revoke the bank’s charter. Would that be a great loss to the financial system? JPMorgan has been racking up multibillion-dollar settlements over white-collar misdeeds on an almost monthly basis lately. It hasn’t been operating like a bank, but like a criminal enterprise. And as this case now shows, it has been aiding and abetting its fellow criminals along the way.”
The very following year, on May 20, 2015, JPMorgan Chase agreed to a third felony count brought by the U.S. Justice Department, this time for its involvement in rigging foreign currency markets.
According to Justice Department’s plea agreement with JPMorgan Chase, both “currency traders” and “sales staff” were involved in widespread wrongdoing. The plea agreement states:
“In addition to its participation in a conspiracy to fix, stabilize, maintain, increase or decrease the price of, and rig bids and offers for, the EUR/USD currency pair exchanged in the FX Spot Market, the defendant, through its currency traders and sales staff, also engaged in other currency trading and sales practices in conducting FX Spot Market transactions with customers via telephone, email, and/or electronic chat, to wit: (i) intentionally working 17 customers’ limit orders one or more levels, or “pips,” away from the price confirmed with the customer; (ii) including sales markup, through the use of live hand signals or undisclosed prior internal arrangements or communications, to prices given to customers that communicated with sales staff on open phone lines; (iii) accepting limit orders from customers and then informing those customers that their orders could not be filled, in whole or in part, when in fact the defendant was able to fill the order but decided not to do so because the defendant expected it would be more profitable not to do so; and (iv) disclosing non-public information regarding the identity and trading activity of the defendant’s customers to other banks or other market participants, in order to generate revenue for the defendant at the expense of its customers.”
Now, while the ordinary citizen would be serving a long prison sentence and have his ability to vote removed for three felony counts within less than a year and a half, no such punishment has befallen JPMorgan Chase. In fact, its employees have continued to vote and funneled $3.6 million into the 2016 Federal political campaigns. Since 2014, when the first felony counts were filed, JPMorgan Chase has spent $14 million lobbying the Federal government.
After Wall Street’s corrupt practices collapsed the U.S. economy and financial system in 2008, causing the greatest downturn since the Great Depression, one would have expected Congress to have cracked down on the crime spree. But because members of Congress are heavily dependent on campaign financing from Wall Street, its worst practices were never reined in. It still runs its own private justice system; it still pays for ratings from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s and other rating agencies; it’s still holding hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives inside its own taxpayer-backstopped depository banks; and it’s still allowed to engage in deeply-conflicted trading inside its own Dark Pools.
No serious attempt at prosecuting Wall Street for the frauds that led to the financial collapse was even made. According to the PBS program Frontline, there was not even a pretense of investigating the executives on Wall Street by the U.S. Justice Department: “there were no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.”
Bob Urie, in a 2012 opinion piece at Counterpunch, sums up the U.S. model of faux democracy. He writes: “The surveillance state, built at our expense, is the servant of the bankers and corporate leaders. The bankers and corporations are the state.” Urie urges the public to “Recognize that the values that the bankers and corporations have handed us are not our values, and are not even human values.”