Really? The Justice Department Won’t Take on Goldman Sachs?

How to Make Government Work
Aug. 10 2012 5:01 PM

The Justice Department Seems Incapable of Making Cases Against Wall Street

Men walk in and out of the Goldman Sachs headquarters building December 16, 2008 in New York.
Goldman Sachs headquarters.

Photograph by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

How do we make sense of this? Goldman Sachs emails call their own investments “junk” and “crap,” and Goldman Sachs salespeople refer to clients as “muppets” and “elephants.” Yet the Justice Department says there is not enough evidence to bring a case on behalf of Goldman Sachs investors who lost vast sums of money.

First, a caveat: As a former prosecutor and New York attorney general, I feel constrained not to judge cases where I have not been able to review all the evidence. And in this nation we believe, as we should, that the weight of government prosecution—the enormous force of the government 's investigative and prosecutorial powers—should be brought down on individuals or entities only when a very high burden of proof can be met.

Advertisement

Now that that's out of the way, I can say what we are all thinking: Really? Are you kidding me? Wall Street continues to get away scot-free? The Justice Department prosecutes Roger Clemens for perjury—spends countless resources, hours, and energy worrying about steroids in baseball—yet seems incapable of making cases against the big Wall Street firms that engineered the greatest lies, frauds, and scams in our economic history. I am as outraged, disappointed, and furious as you are. Have they no backbone, shame, or sense of what justice is all about? It does nothing for my already waning faith in this Justice Department.

So what do we do? First, let's go back to basics. Wall Street failed us because of greed run amok in a welter of conflicts of interest, a lack of dedication to integrity, failed regulatory systems, horrendous management, and a total absence of loyalty to fiduciary duties. We can and should demand of Congress that it enact bills already proposed by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to break up the big banks.

If the Justice Department won't prosecute, we at least can let Wall Street know we don't trust them. The self-important titans of Wall Street fundamentally violated their side of the contract with the public. They were given the keys to the kingdom, in return for which we expected some serious leadership and thoughtfulness in their guiding of our economic system. They utterly failed us, and they still deserve our disdain and scorn.

Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of the state of New York, hosts Viewpoint on Current TV. Follow @eliotspitzer on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.