Where’s the accountability? | AspenTimes.com

Where’s the accountability?

Dear Editor: With the release of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s report last Thursday, I wonder that if the “crisis was avoidable,” why did our duly sworn protectors not do their appointed duties? Is it because the federal government and all its regulatory divisions were lackadaisical in their approach to policing? Is it because these elected and appointed stewards of righteousness were too closely allied to the reckless gamblers of the financial casino? Was it because of the revolving doors between higher elected offices and the elite echelon of finance and industry? Why is it that the movers and shakers of our great society are allowed to pass through and back from governmental positions of regulation, to financial and corporate boardrooms without even a nominal waiting period?

The answer may be as old as time itself – greed. The commission states the problem as investment banks gone crazy leveraging debt and gambling on investments looking for short-term, lucrative payoffs while ignoring the risks of over-borrowing. The problem was also detailed that “the leverage was often hidden – in derivatives positions, in off-balance-sheet entities, and through ‘window dressing’ of financial reports available to the investing public.”

Now I do not know about you, but I consider such actions fraudulent. Yet the report stops short of accusing anyone of fraud. “The report documents that major financial institutions ineffectively sampled loans they were purchasing to package and sell to investors. They knew a significant percentage of the sampled loans did not meet their own underwriting standards or those of the originators. Nonetheless, they sold those securities to investors.” I am compelled to ask, how and why are we not prosecuting these individuals and fining these entities?

This fit of avarice eroded away the work of a century and a half of democracy as we knew it. Our great country was built on an “American Dream,” where you could work hard all your life and achieve a modicum of success; you could provide a better life for your family and you could honestly believe that your progeny would be better off than you were. You could take comfort in the thoughts that your son or daughter would experience a better life, achieve a better lifestyle and live more comfortably than you did. This “American Dream” created the middle-class; a social strata that was better off than the poor. A social class that did not exist at poverty level; one that could in future generations, reach for heights and with luck attain a sense of wealth, a social class that bridged the gap between destitute and affluent.

With this latest fleecing of America, it was the middle class that was attacked, the middle class that was asked to bear the brunt of the careless and “negligent actions” of Wall Street and the banking community; a middle class that was betrayed by its elected stewards and the legislation they passed. While careful to not state intent to defraud, the implications of malfeasance and blind greed are asserted; how the crisis could have been avoided, how some captains of finance and industry set up funds laden with mortgage backed securities and then shorted the call (thus taking advantage of unwitting investors) and the non-disclosure of hidden crushing debt are all outlined. Under the guise of business, the greatest robbery in the history of the world was carried out. The greatest swindle in the history of man was perpetrated; all without violence, all without weapons and all with our sworn guardians standing idly by.

Now that we know what happened, the bigger question has yet to be answered: Will anyone be held responsible, will our nation’s lawmakers and enforcers indict those deemed responsible for the collapse of our country’s economy and will our retirement accounts be salvaged? The most likely answer will be no.

So with a wink, wink and a nod, nod it is business as usual and the beat goes on.

Once again Wall Street is humming, banks are recording record profits and bonuses are being doled out. Not one person has been charged with a crime, not one person has accepted responsibility for the failure of regulation. Not one dime has been offered to the financiers of the bailout, the taxpayer.

Is the concept of “American Democracy” not what we all believed it was? Is it a fantasy taught in school, a great lie swallowed by all us dopes, hook, line and sinker?

Chris Vecchiarello

Aspen


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