HOLDING WALL STREET BANKERS ACCOUNTABLE

The White House hasn't pushed it. The chairmen of the senate and house oversight committees have been too polite to inquire. And, of course, Republican leaders don't even want to know.

The White House hasn’t pushed it. The chairmen of the senate and house oversight committees have been too polite to inquire. And, of course, Republican leaders don’t even want to know.

Don’t you wish that someone in authority, someone with an ounce of chutzpa, someone with their head screwed on right, would direct a few obvious, pointed, even rude questions to the Wall Street honchos who have ripped off America? Questions like: Who, exactly, in your bank directed the ripoff, who made these stupid decisions, who – by name – is accountable for this mess?

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Well, at last, one guy has dared to demand answers. He’s Jed Rakoff, a federal judge who’s been grilling bankers and regulators about the outrageous bonuses that Merrill Lynch slipped to its top executives in the midst of last fall’s Wall Street meltdown. Having lost $27 billion last year, Merrill was taken over by Bank of America – a deal financed with a $45 billion bailout from us taxpayers. Yet, as the deal was unfolding, Merrill secretly paid $3.6 billion in executive bonuses!

Neither shareholders nor taxpayers were told, much less given a chance to stop this ripoff. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been more of a Wall Street lapdog than a watchdog, did nothing but slap the culprit’s wrist with a measly $33 million fine. Come on – some of Merrill’s bankers got bonuses bigger than that!

The SEC’s wrist slap had to be approved in Judge Rakoff’s court. No, he said – not yet. He’s demanding the names of individuals who made the decisions to pay these bonuses and keep them secret.

The merged banks and SEC officials are squirming and squawking, but so far the judge is standing firm, insisting that corporate executives must be held accountable for their actions. Imagine that!

“Judge Attacks Merrill Pre-Merger Bonuses,” www.nytimes.com, August 11, 2009.

“Plain Talk From Judge Weighing Merrill Case,” www.nytimes.com , August 24, 2009.

“Focus Shifts to Lawyers’ Actions in Case of Merrill’s Bonuses,” www.nytimes.com, August 25, 2009.

“Justices to Weigh In on Corporate Culture and Its Paychecks,” The New York Times, August 18, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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