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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Justice "For Sale:" How Wells Fargo Bought Off Prosecutors

By: Donald V. Watkins

© Copyrighted and Published on February 23, 2020

On Friday, the American public learned that the price for immunity from prosecution for two million separate acts of federal wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy charges is $3 billion, if you are a big Wall Street bank like Wells Fargo. If a big Wall Street bank pays this price to the U.S. government, the chief executive officer and senior management executives who presided over a massive, multi-year fraud crime spree from 2012 to 2016 will not be charged with any federal crimes.

Of course, ordinary Americans who are charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and bank fraud and who are convicted in what President Donald Trump has proclaimed is a "rigged" criminal justice system must appear before a pro-prosecution federal judge, listen to a sanctimonious lecture from this judge about how he/she must punish the accused harshly as a deterrent to others who may commit bank fraud, and then face a lengthy sentence.

The Cost of Wells Fargo-Style "Justice" in America.

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced the end of the criminal and civil investigations into Wells Fargo's four-year crime spree where the bank created two million fake bank accounts for existing customers for the sole purpose of bilking them out of unearned banking fees. Under the settlement, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $3 billion to make this criminal and civil exposure go away.

Given Wells Fargo's annual revenues of $104 billion, the amount of the fine was the equivalent of a speeding ticket for ordinary Americans. In simple terms, the $3 billion fine was the cost of conducting a lucrative fraud scheme for four years.

Neither the bank, nor the senior executive who presided over the fraud scheme faced criminal charges. Wells Fargo simply bought "justice" at a price it could readily afford -- $3 billion.

Federal prosecutors, who normally slap each other on the back when pursuing wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy charges against political dissidents, Hollywood actresses, and working class Americans, sold the integrity of the criminal justice system for the banking equivalent to the Bible's "thirty pieces of silver."

Justice "For Sale" is a Non-Partisan Thing

Selling out the American public when it comes to fair justice is not a Republican or Democratic phenomenon. For example, President Barack Obama's Department of Justice did not prosecute a single chief executive officer of a Big Wall Street bank in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008 even though their collective lawlessness and greed caused $13 trillion in lost American wealth. To the contrary, Obama became bosom buddies with these culprits.

President Donald Trump's Department of Justice is following in Obama's footsteps by not prosecuting big bank CEOs, regardless of the nature and scope of the crimes committed during the bank's crime spree. This is one area where the two men are alike.

Unlike the Department of Justice's sellout to Wall Street bankers under the Obama and Trump administrations, Iceland prosecuted 26 former CEOs of big banks in Iceland for financial crimes that led up to the Great Recession. These executives were convicted of transgressions relating to extensive market manipulation, breach of fiduciary duties, embezzlement, bank fraud, insider trading, money laundering, lying to authorities, and related crimes. They have been sentenced to a combined 74 years in prison.

Remember the Federal Judges Association that was "concerned" last week about justice in Roger Stone's case? Well, we have not heard a peep out of them. So much for their "Bullshit" about the "fair administration of criminal justice."

The facade of "fair justice" in America has crumbled in a spectacular way with the end of the Wells Fargo case. The public can see for themselves how the super-wealthy immunize themselves from criminal prosecutions for their crime sprees by simply buying "justice" at the right price. It's always been "for sale" in America.

PHOTO: Former Wells Fargo CEO, John Gerard Stumpf

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