US senator asks FBI to name names in 2008 financial meltdown
19 September 2016
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has posed what commentators see as a tables-turning question to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Democratic senator sent a letter to FBI director James Comey on Thursday demanding the release of notes and other documents the bureau has on its investigations into individuals accused of contributing to the devastating 2008 financial crisis.
This past week marked the eighth anniversary of the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers – and the near collapse of the entire US financial system. And Warren, known as a crusading senator, still hopes to bring some of the individuals responsible for the debacle to justice.
Her argument: The FBI broke its longstanding practice of keeping its investigation notes private when it released dozens of pages of documents related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state. The FBI did so, Warren notes, claiming it was in the ''public interest'' to be more transparent in that particular case.
In her letter, Warren makes the compelling case that if Secretary Clinton's email server ''was of sufficient 'interest' to establish a new FBI standard of transparency, then surely the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should be subject to the same level of transparency''.
The senator clearly has a point. Traditionally, once the bureau wraps up an inquiry, federal law enforcement officials don't share investigatory details about the case. In the matter of Clinton's emails, the FBI concluded that the former secretary of state shouldn't face charges, but it also broke with traditional bureau practices and released internal materials related to its investigation.
For Warren, there's no reason to hold financial institutions accused of wrongdoing to an easier, more permissive standard than Hillary Clinton. If the Democratic presidential candidate's email server protocols were a matter of such pressing national significance that the FBI's investigatory details were released, isn't the 2008 crash of greater importance?
Of course, Warren's letter is based on the assumption that at least some people at Wall Street banks were accused of potentially criminal wrongdoing. Is that true? According to a Boston Globe report, ''Warren's latest salvo in this battle was sparked by the release earlier this year of new documents from the federal panel convened to investigate the causes of the crisis. Warren said her staff found that nine individuals were referred to the Department of Justice because the panel found evidence of possible serious violation of federal laws.''
With that in mind, she also wrote a separate letter to the Justice Department's inspector general, asking for a probe into those nine referrals.
Warren wants to know why the justice department has been twiddling its thumbs for eight years, while citizens' confidence in both government and the financial system dwindles.
She points out that of the nine individuals referred for possible prosecution, only one has ever faced any penalties. Even then, when the Securities and Exchange Commission fined former Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd for misleading investors about the degree to which the mortgage funding entity was at risk of collapsing due its exposure to risky mortgages, it was Fannie Mae itself that wrote the $100,000 check on Mudd's behalf, to a special US Treasury account that accepts ''gifts''.
Thanks to the National Archives, we know the identities of the other individuals the FCIC panel referred to the DoJ to be considered for criminal charges. Among the most notable figures is Robert Rubin, the former treasury secretary who oversaw Wall Street's deregulation and has held top jobs at two of the biggest beneficiaries of that move, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI has responded publicly to Warren's letters.