A Second Set of Books, Colltalers
With all the fanfare and gravitas of a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new bridge, an almost as rare an event, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has finally brought to trial a relatively minor figure of the great Wall Street swindle of the world’s financial institutions of 2008.
As Fabrice Tourre, an ex Goldman Sachs bond trader, stands accused alone of misleading investors in a mortgage investment scheme, one can’t help but thinking that he’s just a convenient scapegoat, or rather a lamb offered to be slaughtered so to keep crowds artificially fed, and the status quo untouched.
It’s all about drops in a golden-plated bucket. Tourre’s former employer, which paid the SEC a $550 million fine for the shady deal right after dumping his sorry behind, has just reported that it made seven times as much revenue in the second-quarter as in the same period last year, with a $1.86 billion net income.
While Goldman along with most U.S. and European banks that caused the subprime mortgage crisis have since more than recovered, investors are still to recoup, if ever, some $1 billion they’ve lost in the adventure. Worse: the great majority of working classes around the world are not even within this picture.
For now, though, this pro-forma show will have to do it, even though it is but a parcel of the disaster that ruined the global economy but that, at least for the sake of the perpetrators, was promptly averted by a rescue package put together by G-8 governments – and obviously unwittingly funded by taxpayers.
Before we come to an all but sure conclusion that the SEC will administer a vehement pat on the wrist of Tourre, at least for getting caught when so many got away, his trial remains relevant for being a shamefully rare effort to punish those whose malfeasance rigged the system and have profited from it all.
His expected mild admonition will be at par with the Department of Justice’s $200,000 fine imposed on Halliburton, for destroying incriminating evidence of its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which cost tens of billions to clean up; an amount that it takes 23 seconds to make.
And yet, Halliburton’s admission of guilty of such a grave crime, and the ridiculousness of its fine, are not even the worst news coming from that tragedy: behind the scenes, its twin villain, oil giant BP, has been frantically maneuvering to deny compensation of claims from victims of the catastrophe.
That includes families of those who lost their lives in the explosion, entire communities whose economies were devastated by the spill, and environmental organizations still knee-deep in their efforts to usher the recover of a large swath of wild marine life, as terminally depleted as it stands today, three years later.
BP went as far as to ask a federal judge to shut down the $20 billion-plus settlement program it was forced to put in place, to compensate for its misdeed, alleging that some of the claims were fraught with fraud. Thankfully, it’s been losing that front as its request has been denied, so far at least.
Then again, despite these slight contretemps, Europe’s second-biggest oil company, along with Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell, have all been consistently beating profit estimates, so it’s not that paying what they rightfully owe has been more than, well, a drop in the bucket.
In the end, the corrupt trader, the guilty-as-charged Halliburton, and the slippery BP, share more than the week’s headlines, hurriedly rushed to the papers’ back pages. While on the surface they come from relatively different areas of the economy, they live and breathe the same toxic atmosphere of impunity.
Their blatant amorality and accountability-proof way of doing business, and the absurdly innocuous punishment prescribed by the various government agencies in charge of protecting us against them, would be no match to the rigor and thoroughness applied to, guess who? whistle-blowers, for instance.
(We concede: our attempt to avoid the subject has just suffered a major blow). Because it’s not lost to anyone standing by some decrepit bridge to nowhere, that while punishing white collar criminal behavior hasn’t had much track with the government, judgement administered to dissenters has been swift and brute.
Pvt. Bradley Manning was found guilty by a military trial of a corollary of crimes, none yet proven to have caused personal harm to anyone, unlike the Wall Street crisis, and CIA contractor Edward Snowden, even though granted a temporary asylum by Russia, has in fact become grounded for life in that country.
By the way, that’s something that would be inconceivable to any multinational corporation such as Halliburton or BP, for that matter. Haven’t somebody said that corporations are people too, my friend? Theirs, not ours, of course.
As for Manning and Snowden, theirs are the saddest possible epilogue to two of the greatest examples in recent memory of individuals making choices out of morality and principle, and to the beat of great personal loss. After been eviscerated as traitors by the multimillion media concerns funded, not coincidentally, by some of their accusers, they’re now most likely headed to limbo, pariahs of their own land of birth, a fate no human being should have to endure.
It’s almost as if they’ve been judged by a completely different set of books, one that prioritizes the state’s self preservation over the right of its own citizens to disagree, and that’s willing to bend the rules and carve a whole new jurisprudence, if it sees fit to assure its supremacy over the individual.
In the meantime, there’s a new vague threat for us to fill our hearts and minds with fear, we’re told: that in the near future, we won’t be able to find undergarments to wear. That’s right, today is Underwear Day, so be sure to wear a clean one. As for Colltales readers who’ve inquired: what embassy closings? We have no idea; lately, we’re trying not to follow what they call ‘the news.’ Have a great one. WC