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California Refuses to Accept Obama’s Banking Sellout

Posted on Nov 10, 2011
AP / Damian Dovarganes

California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

By Robert Scheer

There is no three-strikes law for crooked bankers, not even a law for a fifth strike, as The New York Times reported in the case of Citigroup, cited last month in a $1 billion fraud case. Unlike the California third-striker I once wrote about whom a district attorney wanted banished forever to state prison for stealing a piece of pizza from the plate of a person dining outdoors, Citigroup executives get off with a fine and by offering a promise not to do it again, and again and again.

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As the Times reported when Citigroup agreed to settle SEC charges last month: “Citigroup’s main brokerage subsidiary, its predecessors or its parent company agreed to not violate the very same antifraud statue in July 2010. And in May 2006. Also as far back as March 2005 and April 2000.”

Not that the bankers face prison time, since the Justice Department has refused to act in these cases, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is bringing only civil charges, which the banks find quite tolerable. This time, the fine against Citigroup was $285 million, which may sound like a lot except that the bank raked off as much as $700 million on this particular toxic securities deal. As the Bloomberg news service editorialized, “... there should be only one answer from Jed S. Rakoff, the federal judge in New York assigned to weigh the merits of the agreement: You’ve got to be kidding.”

Not to pick on Citigroup, the too-big-to-fail bank that Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin helped make legal before he was paid off with a $126 million job on Wall Street; that corporation was not the only serial offender. “Citigroup has a lot of company in this regard on Wall Street,” the Times noted, “nearly all of the biggest financial companies—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America among them—have settled fraud cases by promising that they would never again violate an antifraud law, only to have the SEC conclude they did it again a few years later.”

So forget relying on the federal government to hold the Wall Street swindlers accountable. Indeed, the Obama administration has been involved in negotiating a deal with state attorneys general to settle their complaints with the banks for a pittance of compensation for the victims. In return, the states would promise not to institute further legal proceedings against the banks. 


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The fix was in for what a New York Times editorial on Tuesday headlined “Letting the Banks Off Easy” described as “paltry” mortgage relief, reducing by less than $20 billion the balances of 14.5 million underwater homeowners who are “drowning in some $700 billion of negative equity.” The deal has been stalled by the refusal of California Attorney General Kamala Harris to accept this sellout. Among its other disastrous concessions would be ending further investigation by the states into financial skulduggery connected with the housing meltdown.

In September, Harris, elected in a Democratic sweep of the state’s top offices in 2010, went against the dictates of the Democrat in the White House, stating that she refused to release the banks from legal liability for the mortgage crisis. That is the nub of the pending White House-brokered deal with the banks. As the Times summarized it: “The proposed settlement reportedly would prevent the states from pursuing claims against banks relating to fraud or abuse in the origination of the bubble. It would also prevent states from pursuing claims for foreclosure abuses, like improper denial of loan modifications.”

Traditionally the states provided the essential regulation of mortgage origination, ownership and sales as a transparent process duly recorded and subject to public examination at the county level. But in order to facilitate the gathering of those mortgages into the sort of collateralized debt obligations that the banks could then bet on and trade worldwide, homeownership became a murky matter. Many of the mortgages now in question, including the ones that Citigroup’s “synthetic” derivative was based on, are no longer owned by the banks that originated them. They are instead part of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) database, owned by a consortium of banks and residing in computers in Reston, Va.

The MERS system is described by the Times as “a land registry system implicated in bubble-era violations of tax, trust and property law.” The Obama-supported settlement would make it very difficult if not impossible to investigate at long last the workings of MERS and other systemic sources of what is now a full-blown international economic crisis. As the Times editorial put it, “In effect, the legal waivers being contemplated would let the banks pay up to sweep wrongdoing under the rug.”

Thankfully, we have a few state attorneys general, most prominently California’s Harris, standing up for the American people, but it is outrageous that a president who avowedly committed to defending the public interest would now be subverting that effort rather than leading it.


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By Foucauldian, November 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

I’d settle for the former, because the latter leads nowhere, only perpetuating the illusion.

Law of physics, whatever will rise again first must come down.

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By Leefeller, November 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Obama is a grave disappointment me too, but the Obstruction Congress may have something to do with his lack of accomplishments, (I know the wars) after all they have an agenda to make Obama a one term president.

It seems to me the whole damn thing is rigged like a slot machine in a Casino, so the house always wins.

The predictable right seems to be just doing its job appeasing their base, like Limbaugh to keep them from ever grasping reality and god forbid keeping them from discovering anything near the truth!

It appears in the grand scheme of things,  everything is choreographed by the benefactors as the   1 percent to make sure the results are as bought and paid for?

Duping the people has a consistent very long history from the first tribal Chiefs and witch doctors to the Republicans and the Democrats, nothing has changed and probably will never change! The people be damned, ranting here in my cynical mood!

So, we can vote for the wost to expedite things or we can do the usual!

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By Ray Bishop, November 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Justice under our law should not be awarded to the highest bidder.  This again is an example of the tyranny of wealth.  Should we set up a schedule of Crimes and Punishment based on the price to pay for getting caught?  The wealthy have already determined that Crime does pay.  They simply weigh out the cost, and possibilities of being caught, to the gain.  If it is only a risk of money we can stimulate the economy by the investment in crime.  The poor are again the victims.

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By Foucauldian, November 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

No complacence, but if you’re intent to run the country to the ground in order to rebuild, you may as well do it right.

Why prolong the agony?

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By Leefeller, November 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

Rich Perry, meaning the 1 percent Texas Perry?  My old friend was named Rich and he would introduce himself to to the girls by saying; “Hi, I’am Rich!” not the best pick up line but it was three words and he never forgot them!

I am not over elated by Obama, but Rick Perry the clown who thinks he is some sort of religious profit? The guy who is proud of his high number of Texas executions, like cloches on his pistols. Why Perry? will Perry get us out of Afghanistan? Will he support women’s rights?  Where is Perry on Gay Rights and gay marriage and more important to me where is Perry on Imbecile marriage?

After watching the Governors in the Red States, Yeah we need someone like Perry in the White House, is this a strange form of constituent deadly complacence?

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By drbhelthi, November 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

@ CanDoJack
Available information indicates that both sides of Ann Dunham´s parents were affiliates of the C.I.A., as was Ann Dunham, as is her son.  As an affiliate of the C.I.A., Ann Dunham was supported by the Ford Foundation.  The Report of the Reese Committee by Congressman Norman Dodd explains the goal of the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment. 

Ann Dunham was sent into Indonesia to feret out certain groups for subsequent “removal.”  The book by Janny Scott is one-sided, fails to reveal the underlying dynamic, and is an interesting piece of propaganda.  It is as propagandistic as “Barrack H. Obama” is deceptive. 

Hitler´s last bodyguard, NAZI SS Ltc. Otto Skorzeny, was publicized to have died in Madrid, 1975.  He was secreted into the U.S., and lived in a Florida beach town, disguised as a carpenter, until his death, 1999. Similar, fictitious deaths have been reported for many people.  Perhaps Ann Dunham was also included in such deceptions, with which her son is a master.

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By Foucauldian, November 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment

If anyone votes to re-elect this bungler and a stooge for the second term, they’d better have their head examined.

I’d rather have Rich Perry presiding over this country’s affairs than this chameleon.  At least we’ll know what we’re getting, and if he runs this country to the ground, the sooner the better.  It doesn’t deserve a better lot.

Meanwhile, why don’t we insist he returns the campaign contributions received thus far from Goldman Sachs or, better yet, hand if over to the people as a condition for getting as much as a single vote?

That would be hope and change, and justice besides.

And people like Reich and Scheer are willing to give the fucker a second chance.  Shame on them.

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By sludgegulper, November 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

“but it is outrageous that a president who avowedly
committed to defending the public interest would now be
subverting that effort rather than leading it.” Hey
it’s easy… don’t vote for him

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By CanDoJack, November 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

And, Oh Yeah! Here’s to my home state of California,
Kamala Harris and Mr. Scheer’s continued sedulous and
consummate efforts!

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By objective observer, November 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


1. “unnecessary violence”?  how much “violence” is necessary and when?  breaking windows and walking/marching around is nothing more than a nuisance.

which lesds me to

2. OWS isn’t “scaring the bejeezes” out of anyone.  the powers that be have got the police and firepower.  they are only waiting for the most opportune time and excuse to use them.

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By CanDoJack, November 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

Stop! Stop!

Count the number of BROKEN oBAMA PROMISES.

Every time you count, start with the clean up promiseS. I
leave it to you to do a little of the work by looking up
various expressions of the promise(s).

Obama promised to clean up Washington and CHANGE things.
So follow two threads in your search: 1) the clean up and
2) the people he hired to do it (it is a quick search to
list his cabinet members and other appointees).

It is easy to laugh at the idiots, mountebanks, and
flimflams on the Right. E.g. the Koch-Cain combine, or
the hilariously sad Perry who cannot even name three
Obama admin departments and apparently does not know the
difference between the acronyms for the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE).

Obama turned a blind eye to the crimes of the
Christian Criminal Crusade and no gallows appeared on
Pennsylvania Avenue. We were were not fooled. YOU PARDON

Wasn’t it easy to just think, “Well, look at that, how
that marvelous man just turned the other cheek and set
about CHANGING things?”

Now I would not say Obama is as serpentine in his paths
of obedience to leaders of the totalitarian apocalypse as
was Slick Willy. But he is pretty good at tricking you to
turn a nanosecond blind eye as he manipulates the shells
and underlying peas. He is a quick study in learning new
variations on the art of deception.

For example, When Slick Willy put Billary up to the
health care ploy in the nineties the newts and
salamanders and geckos and earwicks of the GOP (Greed,
Obstruction, Pollution) sent her packing. But, Slick
Willy got an A for effort, Billary got some OJT, and
Obama took notes.

Without looking under the rocks one might think Obama was
really interested in Change. After the rock exercise and
a short Google search into the history and art and legend
of SNAKE OIL SALESMEN, you look at Obama’s health care
push and you ask yourself, “Why did he not go for the
health care public option.”

“I am not interested in passing health care reform in
name only,” now ex-Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin
said. “Without a public option, I don’t see how we will
bring real change to a system that has made good health
care a privilege for those who can afford it.”

But Obama dropped it. Why? So he could later say as he
says now and will blather about through out the first ten
months of 2012, he has a health care bill to his credit.

But I have got you asking yourself so many questions that
you probably have asked yourself before since repetition
is, if not the key to knowledge, at least the key to

Obama’s mama taught him that non-Americans are human too.
Since she spent her career studying and educating non-
Americans, specifically Indonesians, and was married to
one in addition to being married to a Kenyan. (For my
part, time permitting we should have elected her instead
of her son. Read A SINGULAR WOMAN by Janny Scott.

If Obama is interested in repairing the reputation of the
country he is CEO of and not seeking bonuses then why
does he:
1) try to manipulate the UN into destroying Haiti and
2) destroying any independent democratic effort in South
3) destroying elected governments (Honduras), installing
US drone dictators
4) trying to kill Pres. Chavez of Venezuela who funnels
the profits from oil into genuine health care education
(not just 1% but 100%)
5) ongoing incarceration and manipulated murder of anyone
on the kill list
6) protecting financial CRIMINALS and institutions


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By drbhelthi, November 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment

“ - - California’s Harris, standing up for the American people, but it is outrageous that a president who avowedly committed to defending the public interest would now be subverting that effort rather than leading it.”

The man in the POTUS slot has spent two million dollars to block access to his post high school records, to prevent Americans from finding out who he really is.  His record, while in the POTUS slot, demonstrates that he has done what he was placed to do, to dissolve the USA, while mouthing the opposite. 

Mouthing the opposite of his actions, while putting up a good front, is his forte.  Obama amplified the Patriot Act so as to classify Americans, who dissent to USGOV actions, as “Homeland Terrorists.”  His secret, special “cabinet committee” decides who, among them, to assassinate.

His assignment is to implement the goal of tax-exempt foundations, as discovered by the Reese Committee of the U.S. Congress, presented as the Report by Congressman Norman Dodd.  “ - the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Carnegie Endowment were using funds excessively on projects at Columbia, Harvard, Chicago University and the University of California, in order to enable oligarchical collectivism.”  Stated in practical words, Mr. Dodd reported that these tax-exempt foundations are preparing the U.S.A. to merge with Russia.

Final Warning: A History of the New World Order

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By Leefeller, November 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm Link to this comment

It seems to boil down to shared sacrifices and fair negotiations, the Republicans seem to have taken the recession as an opportunity to achieve the agendas of their benifatrobbers, the 1 percent.

I know unions are not perfect, but Repulcians and their Tea Baggage seem so flawed, they make the Talaban seem sane!

Polarization is cultivated and fertilized to dived the populous against its own best interests, unfortunately it has worked in the past, maybe the future will prove different?

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By ardee, November 10, 2011 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

Vallejo’s Bankruptcy `Failure’ Scares Cities Into Cutting Costs

By Alison Vekshin and Martin Z. Braun - Dec 13, 2010 9:01 PM PT


Vallejo’s Bankruptcy ‘Failure’ Scares Cities to Cut Costs

When Vallejo, California, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 after failing to win union pay cuts, Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes said officials around the U.S. would have their eyes trained on the city of 120,000.

She was right. The lesson they’ve taken from the two-year- old case, which has cost Vallejo $9.5 million in legal fees and made it a nationwide symbol for distressed municipal finances, is that out-of-court negotiations yield better results.

“They spent a lot of money with very little outcome,” said Jay Goldstone, San Diego’s chief operating officer. Faced with an $82 million deficit in his city’s 2010 budget, Goldstone negotiated pay cuts and higher benefit contributions from unions in 2009 that will save as much as $40 million annually, he said.

Bankruptcy has become less attractive even as U.S. municipal borrowers coped with what the National League of Cities said was the biggest decline in general-fund revenue since 1986 last fiscal year. The mention of Vallejo, the biggest California city and second-largest local government after Orange County to file for bankruptcy, can spook investors and raise interest costs, said Bill Lockyer, the state’s treasurer.

“Declaring bankruptcy is a huge admission of failure on the part of elected officials and their local managers,” Lockyer said in a Dec. 3 telephone interview. Vallejo’s filing “sent a chill through the markets.” Vallejo, a one-time Navy town 32 miles (51 kilometers) north of San Francisco, entered Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in May 2008. The filing, after employee unions refused to accept salary cuts and the recession eroded tax revenue, allows municipalities to reorganize debt rather than liquidate.

Methinks, bikecommuter, that your spin was intended to show how unions can be circumvented, how contracts with employees can be voided as well. The truth ,however, shows rather pointedly that the almost ten million dollar legal bill only led to negotiations that could have been held sans all that money.

Unions negotiate, it is what they do to achieve a medium between employee needs and ability to afford said needs. Please try harder.

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By Flickford, November 10, 2011 at 11:40 am Link to this comment

Here in NY AG Schneiderman is going after foreclosure scams by leading a
national probe, but no state actions against the doomsday banking fraud so far.
Regardless of MERS holding sliced and diced ownership of synthetic derivative
mortgages out of state; NYS fraudulent mortgage lending and trading practices
should be subject to NYS law.  The bank cartel is so sophisticated all other
criminal activity in the world looks like sandbox play. The labyrinth hiding fraud
is impenetrable, which is why OWS is so important. The only way to kill the
banks is to leave them.

I’m not proud of the following… About 14 years ago as a freelance graphic
designer I designed tri-fold brochures for a small ad agency, now defunct, touting
Citibank’s offshore banking and I remember well a bullet point specifying that
cash in any amount could be deposited with no questions asked. Not long after
that the scandal broke about Citibank laundering drug cartel money. Now it’s
common practice - laundering drug money primarily from Mexico’s cartels.
Wells Fargo is deeply into it; all the big banks compete for drug trade cash.

If we want to think about just what is sanctioned by our president in regards to
banking practices we have to include protection for international drug
trafficking along with protection, amnesty and taxpayer funding for banking
fraud in general.

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By berniem, November 10, 2011 at 11:34 am Link to this comment

Obama, et. al. speak volumes as to the paucity of choice come ‘12. The fix is in; whether these state AGs. are sincere or just posturing makes little difference. The forces of greed, privilege, and corruption will win out as they have throughout the history of this little experiment in “democracy”. Go back and read the history of America by Howard Zinn and see if today is any different than what happened before.

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By faith, November 10, 2011 at 11:02 am Link to this comment

Artsy, your comment, “where is justice..”  is so very, very accurate.  Justice no
longer serves the everyday citizen.  Instead, the courts put the citizens’ complaints
on hold until the “everyday citizen” can no longer afford to seek justice because of
the costs in representation occurring to both the plaintiff and to pro bono
counselors, court costs, etc.  It is out of balance.  And, forget any sense of fairness
factor.  The banks, the mortgage lenders, et al, are winning the war against the

Thanks to Robert Scheer who speaks up for us !  Another great article, sir.

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By Norman, November 10, 2011 at 10:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is with this blog?  I commented twice, yet you don’t post it? Is it because I disagree with mr sheere? Or perhaps this really isn’t a blog at all, but some Democratic spin gadget?

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By abikecommuter, November 10, 2011 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
Also note that Vallejo already paid the $8M to show it can be done.

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By dorndiego, November 10, 2011 at 10:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Kamala Harris will become famouser and famouser, and to Bob Scheer all the most
sincere thanks for staying on the J-O-B.  There’s probably no reporter working
today doing more for journalism, an institution that is rapidly disintegrating,
like so many others.  Up with people.  Let “the present occupant of the
White House” spin it however he wants, but his Holder is about as
trustworthy as the present occupant.

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By Michael Shaw, November 10, 2011 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

As I fellow Californian I say thank you Kamala Harris! I’m glad I voted for you!

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By Leefeller, November 10, 2011 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

Relentlessly, Robert Sheer like the energizer bunny keeps his focus like a laser on the absurdity and disgusting realty of our double standard economic scheme of things!

These obvious manipulations seem so apparent, even to me an economic misanthrope like me and I would suggest Occupy Wall Street is tired of the good old thieving boys too!

Five strikes for now, how many more as the rules keep changing or is the real problem being there are no rules? Elimination of those phoney job creating pesky regulations are working for the 1 percent,  thanks to Clinton who gave these ass holes a get out of jail free card!

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By srelf, November 10, 2011 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Do you have references for what you say is happening in Vallejo?
I would be very interested to see that.

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By abikecommuter, November 10, 2011 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

Other positive developments include Jeffeerson County taking JPMorgan down the
sewer drain and Vallejo not only taking the police union to the cleaners but showing
other miscreant cities that have oiled the banking palms for decades how to wipe out the
nuveou rich today. Wiping out conservative asset bases in stock and bond holdings and
raising the cost of entering the bond markets will put a damper on the mischief that
governments are designed to create. Electing more MBAs who subscribe to growth
through bonds will help accelerate the process.

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By Artsy, November 10, 2011 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

We all talk but where is the justice? Who will take these CRIMINALS down since it appears that the entire system is criminal? How will we get justice? Where? In what court? When? Once the crooks are all living the cushy life overseas and our country is in utter turmoil and we are starving, and ultimately dying - who will care?

Massive protest is only one way to stop the US / World destruction machine. Apparently, not enough people are willing to risk arrest, obvious police brutality, and possible death; not yet. Ultimately, they must take part and I sincerely believe that they will.

There are tens of millions of us all over the World who insist that the Banksters, Corporate Cons, and tyrannical politicians be imprisoned. Let’s go after them. The right way. Without unnecessary violence. Hopefully, we can make their lives miserable by simply scaring the bejeezes out of them!

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By Norman, November 10, 2011 at 9:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I shall comment again, this is not what it seems. The A.G. is marking time to see which way the wind blows. She hasn’t joined New York, Nevada, Delaware, Massachusetts, in not excepting the “O” backed bail out for the banks. She even punted on the Countrywide issue. This A.G. is a party hack, leaves a lot to be desired. Check in depth to see just where she stands.

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By GJS, November 10, 2011 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I can never remember a time when no matter who you talk to people want these banker bastards blood, I would not like to be one of them when the inevitable happens, I think it’s quite obvious that if Politicians refuse to act against them others will.
We MUST remember though both sides of politics enabled these leaches to achieve their goals & crimes, if we genuinely want to get back to some form of decent society we MUST vote OUT both main political parties while we arew still able to but time is truly against us.
We’re the only ones that can change things.

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By michelle, November 10, 2011 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What happened to “the war on terror”. Obviously doesn’t apply to financial terrorists.

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By Rixar13, November 10, 2011 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

“There is no three-strikes law for crooked bankers, not even a law for a fifth strike, as The New York Times reported in the case of Citigroup, cited last month in a $1 billion fraud case.”

Banksters screw we 99%... Gr

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By caped amigo, November 10, 2011 at 7:38 am Link to this comment

Ms. Kamala Harris is now among my heroines. I congratulate you. I applaud your
courage. In the scorching words of OWS, “Enough is enough”. This is our battle
cry. I am so inspired by the turn in tide.

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By Norman, November 10, 2011 at 7:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All things considered, we shall see if she holds true or caves in to the “O” for political reasons! This may all just be “KABUKI”, like what the “O” is doing. One thing is sure, if “OWS” survives, is successful in thwarting the stranglehold the plutocracy has on this country, then you can be sure that there will be Democrats falling all over themselves if calling for blood. Ms Harris had the perfect opportunity to show she has the steel balls by taking Countrywide down, but instead let Mozillo or what ever his name is get off with his get out of jail free card.

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By Ronald Thomas West, November 10, 2011 at 7:33 am Link to this comment

Damn, Robert, you’ve nearly wiped the egg off of your face wink

Couple of more years real reporting ought to bury your stupid stuff wink

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By ardee, November 10, 2011 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

Business as usual. If anyone wonders why this story is not headline news my first words should explain sufficiently.

It is a bit encouraging that more and more are awakening to the fact that ‘business as usual’ means crooked business far too often.

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By SoTexGuy, November 10, 2011 at 6:12 am Link to this comment

The relationship between the SEC and the Banks grows more akin to that between the DEA and the Narco-conglomerates.

Banking fraud and theft and more continue while the SEC levies fines and slaps fingers.. just as the narcotics trade continues, even flourishes, while the DEA makes their raids and interdictions and more.

It’s as if both the DEA and the SEC are taxing entities, not LE agencies. The bankers and the cartels give a portion of their proceeds.. and even occasionally cough up some low-level operative for the press.. all the while it’s business as usual… even a growing business! For both the bad guys and the enforcement agencies.


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By DBM, November 10, 2011 at 3:27 am Link to this comment

The fact that this proposal to indemnify banking criminals is not the biggest story in the news arousing howls of disapproval from every direction would indicate that the tide is still receding from “the 99%” towards “the 1%”.

Hundreds of bankers went to jail after the S&L swindles 20 years ago.  This time around ... exactly none.  But swindles this time around are a couple of orders of magnitude bigger.

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By do over, November 10, 2011 at 2:55 am Link to this comment

Thank you California Attorney General Kamala Harris for standing up.  The tide is turning and the banksters and their enablers will be brought to justice.

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