Friday, April 27, 2018
Editorials

Getting past 'too big to jail' for big banks

Americans are understandably frustrated that there have been so few criminal prosecutions connected to the financial failures of Wall Street — the problem has been dubbed "too big to jail." Despite what seem to be clear cases of financial fraud, no one at the top of the major banking institutions has seen the inside of a jail cell. Now it appears no criminal charges will be brought against Jon Corzine, who headed the firm MF Global that raided customer accounts to pay for its own losses. The decision suggests that tougher laws, not less regulation, are needed to hold the financial world accountable.

Even after all the reckless and unethical conduct by major investment banks that helped melt down the financial system in 2008, the malfeasance of MF Global stands out. The firm collapsed after making a $6.3 billion bet on European sovereign debt, a bet so large that it easily could have bankrupted the firm many times over. When MF Global's financial situation soured, it used its customers' money to stay afloat. The result wiped out nearly $1 billion from accounts of customers who thought their money was protected from this kind of gambit.

But prosecutors are reportedly not prepared to bring criminal charges against Corzine, the former Democratic U.S. senator and governor of New Jersey, or other top executives. While Corzine is known to have approved reckless trades, he apparently didn't know that customer money was being used or in jeopardy. The problem is being blamed on the firm's general chaos and lack of risk management.

Incompetence is not a crime, but someone should be held criminally accountable for financial abuse that devastated so many Americans. If there is not a crime in here somewhere, then the real crime is that it was legal — and that should be corrected.

The MF Global decision came soon after the Justice Department announced that no charges would be filed against Goldman Sachs for concealing that it bet against more than $1 billion of toxic mortgage-related securities that it sold to unwitting investors. Consider too, the recent acquittal of Brian Stoker, a former Citigroup executive, who prepared marketing materials that misled clients about a similar situation. Citigroup had picked the underlying mortgage bonds in securities it sold and then bet the value would fall. It made money as its clients' investments went south.

In finding Stoker not guilty the jury still spoke to the frustration of people over Wall Street's impunity. It wrote a note urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to continue investigating the financial industry. The jury's foreman said later in an interview, "I wanted to know why the bank's CEO wasn't on trial." Good question.

The excuse heard most from the Obama administration is that Wall Street is immoral and greedy when it cheats its customers, but those acts don't rise to criminality under current law. Well, then the laws need to be rewritten. During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, there were more than 1,000 felony convictions. Today, after billions of dollars in wealth was plundered by Wall Street trickery, there have been hardly a one.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

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Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18