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WP Opinion: Wall Street is still playing us for suckers (Citi Group fraud settlement)


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Wall Street is still playing us for suckers

by Richard Cohen

These investments are known as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and they consisted of the sort of mortgage securities that nearly sunk the U.S. financial system. According to federal regulators, they were sold with the full knowledge that they were careening toward worthlessness and that, by deduction, their buyers were patsies. The bank made substantial profits on them. But when the Securities and Exchange Commission decided to act, it got Citigroup to pony up a mere $285 million fine that, to presumed chuckles, will doubtlessly be taken out of petty cash. The bank last quarter reported a profit of $3.8 billion.

Mirth must have turned to guffaws when Citigroup read on. It did not even have to admit guilt — “without admitting or denying” is the language the SEC used — and no single executive was held culpable. The CDOs, apparently, were contrived by no one and sold by no one. There’s a Nobel Prize in something (maybe alchemy) for anyone who can explain how that happened.

The Citigroup settlement is being reviewed by a perplexed U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff. Among other things, he wants to know why he should authorize a settlement “in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing.” This is a marvelous question that goes to the heart of the matter. The settlement is itself a CDO, a legal version of a black hole in which next to nothing is disclosed. Why no guilt? Why no guilty people? Why such a non-punishing punishment? The SEC will have to tell it to the judge.


Way to go Feds, way to enforce the law... Impotent, corrupt, idiots.

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