Thousands of bank execs went to prison during the S&L crisis of the 1980’s. Not a single bankster has yet during this current debacle. In fact, virtually none have even been criminally charged. This is a disgrace, a subversion of justice, and an obvious corruption of the legal system.
We need thousands of criminal prosecutions for this biggest fraud ever. Will we get them?
Ezra Klein: What’s happening here? Why are we suddenly faced with a crisis that wasn’t apparent two weeks ago?
Janet Tavakoli: This is the biggest fraud in the history of the capital markets. And it’s not something that happened last week. It happened when these loans were originated, in some cases years ago.
EK: And how much danger are the banks themselves in?
JT: When we had the financial crisis, the first thing the banks did was run to Congress and ask for accounting relief. They asked to be able to avoid pricing this stuff at the price where people would buy them. So no one can tell you the size of the hole in these balance sheets. We’ve thrown a lot of money at it. TARP was just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve given them guarantees on debts, low-cost funding from the Fed. But a lot of these mortgages just cannot be saved. Had we acknowledged this problem in 2005, we could’ve cleaned it up for a few hundred billion dollars. But we didn’t. Banks were lying and committing fraud, and our regulators were covering them and so a bad problem has become a hellacious one.
(Janet Tavakoli is the founder and president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, Inc. (TSF), a Chicago based consulting firm providing expert experience and knowledge about maximizing value in the face of complexity and uncertainty.)