“The big indictment against SAC Capital Advisors on Thursday offers up another jarring reminder that while the Justice Department continues its old habit of pursuing insider-trading cases, it has let the biggest financial scam in history pass it by without a single conviction of a Wall Street executive. Indeed, the government’s entire hope for nailing any Wall Street culprits related to the subprime securitization scandal now depends on one tiny, wriggling fish in another New York courtroom: Fabrice Tourre.
“Tourre, of course, is the mid-level Goldman Sachs trader on civil trial over charges that he misled an investment company in a complex securitization deal. But even there the best hope in the civil case is that little Fab will be banned from the securities business and fined. No jail time. And it’s a weak case at best: All Goldman and Fab did was out-trade a dumber firm. That’s what one does on Wall Street: Dishonor among thieves is the name of the game.
Senior U.S. officials, starting with Lanny Breuer, the former head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, have never offered up a good explanation for why they have failed to prosecute individuals who were responsible for scams worth hundreds of billions of dollars, other than it’s hard to make a case. But experts contrast the scant number of criminal or civil referrals compared with the savings-and-loan scandal, or even the Enron blowup. “The Office of Thrift Supervision made 30,000 referrals in the S&L debacle,” says William Black, a former litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and senior deputy chief counsel at the OTS. “It’s made zero here.” The Financial Fraud Task Force set up by Attorney General Eric Holder has also yielded next to nothing. “It’s outrageous. There is evidence out there,” says Kathleen Engel of Suffolk University Law School, an expert in mortgage fraud and securitization.“
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