Will These Wall Street Criminals Finally Be Punished?

wall street criminalSeven years have passed since the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, and still, not a single too-big-to-fail chief executive officer (CEO) is in jail.

Sure, civil suits have been filed against the guilty Wall Street firms...

Civil suits that result in settlements that barely touch these global financial institutions' balance sheets. For instance, the $5.7 billion settlement paid out by five too-big-to-fail banks in May - JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Barclays Plc. (NYSE ADR: BCS), UBS Group AG (NYSE: UBS), and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. (NYSE: RBS) - represent the earnings of about a day or two for each bank.

As for the Wall Street criminals behind the toxic loans that tanked the economy in 2008 - the actual people, not the institutions they hide behind - there has never been so much as a wrist slap, let alone a criminal conviction.

When all was said and done, these execs cost the United States nearly 9 million jobs (6% of the workforce), a 30% fall in housing prices, and a 50% dip in the stock market. The estimated total crisis-related loss equals around 40% of 2007's gross domestic product.

"America has become a banana republic run by Wall Street criminals," Money Morning Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani said earlier this year on May 20. "We all know the big banks are above the law. They are convicted, they admit their guilt (sometimes), and no one goes to jail - they just pay more fines."

That's why we were pleasantly surprised when The Wall Street Journal reported last week that U.S. officials are finally pursuing criminal charges against three Royal Bank of Scotland and JPMorgan execs...

Three Wall Street Criminals Finally Face Criminal Charges

Here's what WSJ had to say on Nov. 17, citing sources familiar with the ongoing investigation:

Officials are working to establish that the bankers ignored warnings from associates that they were packaging too many shaky mortgages into investment offerings and are weighing whether they can prove that constituted fraud, the people said.

At RBS, prosecutors are scrutinizing a $2.2 billion deal that repackaged home mortgages into bonds in 2007, the people said. In a 2013 civil settlement with RBS, the Securities and Exchange Commission described the lead banker on that deal, whom it didn't name, as trying to push it through over concerns of the diligence department.

At J.P. Morgan, prosecutors are focusing on two people who worked on a different residential-mortgage deal, the people said.

To date, both RBS and JPMorgan have written billions in settlement checks to the U.S. government to settle civil charges.

But in those settlements, feds never prosecuted the individuals responsible...

If filed, these new charges will be the first against specific employees of the Wall Street firms behind the housing collapse.

The WSJ report continued:

The J.P. Morgan criminal probe flows directly from the Sacramento civil investigation, in which prosecutors unearthed a 2007 memo written by a bank employee warning her bosses before the financial crisis hit that they were putting bad loans into securities - warnings that were ignored. That memo helped the Justice Department develop a legal basis for the then-record 2013 settlement.

After years of delay, there are two reasons feds are finally making a move now. First, prosecutors are up against a 10-year statute of limitations for most of the alleged infractions come 2017. Second, they are making a push to tie up any possible criminal cases against individual Wall Street criminals by the end of U.S. President Barack Obama's term in January 2017.

Stay tuned to Money Morning as these investigations unfold.

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