“With its broad historical scope, Eisinger’s book lacks the juicy, infuriating details of “Chain of Title,” David Dayen’s chronicle of foreclosure fraud — another instance of white-collar crime that went largely unpunished… But for someone familiar with the political landscape of the contemporary United States, Eisinger’s account has the ring of truth.”
THE CHICKENSHIT CLUB
Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives
On April 27, 2010, Senator Carl Levin summoned the Goldman Sachs C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein and his lieutenants before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to answer allegations that the bank had misled investors prior to the 2008 financial crisis. Upon completing its investigation, Levin’s committee recommended that the Department of Justice open a criminal investigation into both Goldman’s business practices and the denials made by its executives before Congress.
Blankfein hired Reid Weingarten, a famous white-collar defense attorney who had once said of his work, “I feel like I’m in the French Revolution, defending the nobility against the howling mob.” Weingarten was a friend of Attorney General Eric Holder; his children went to Georgetown Day School with the children of Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division of the D.O.J. Breuer, who had spent much of the previous decade at the elite Washington law firm Covington & Burling, assigned the case to Dan Suleiman, a former Covington associate. Weingarten pestered Breuer, saying, “Close this …case, will ya?” In 2012, the Justice Department announced that it would take no further action against Goldman or Blankfein. That’s how the game is played. (A year later, Breuer and Suleiman both returned to Covington.)
Why was virtually no one prosecuted for causing the 2008 financial crisis, which devastated the global economy and cost the United States almost nine million jobs? Some people think the fix is in: Bankers control the government, so they can get away with anything. Others claim that the banks did nothing wrong to begin with — or, alternatively, that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone in particular committed a crime. In this new book, the ProPublica reporter Jesse Eisinger tells a different story: Since the turn of the century, changes in the political landscape, the defense bar, the courts and most important the Justice Department have undermined both the ability and the resolve of America’s top prosecutors to go after corporations or their executives.