Matt Taibbi: "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?" (Complete Interview)
"Nobody goes to jail,” writes Matt Taibbi in the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth." Here is the complete interview from which we played an excerpt on our Feb. 22 show. Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio. [includes rush transcript]
"Nobody goes to jail,” writes Matt Taibbi in his the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth." Here is the complete interview from which we played an excerpt on our Feb. 22 show. Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Matt Taibbi. But before I do, let me read a sentence from a recent paper by Dean Baker, who concludes, "Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009. If pension funds had earned returns just equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds in the three years since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today."
And this — he quotes David Cay Johnston of tax.com: "The average Wisconsin pension is $24,500 a year, which is hardly lavish. But what is stunning is that 15% of the money contributed to the fund each year is going to Wall Street in fees," which is why we now ask the question, "Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?"
Actually, that’s the title of reporter Matt Taibbi’s new article for Rolling Stone magazine. In the piece, Matt writes, quote, "Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth."
Well, I interviewed Matt Taibbi on Sunday about his report, "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?"
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, Matt Taibbi.
MATT TAIBBI: Thanks for having me back.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re seeing these mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, and there’s other protests that are happening. We see the working poor, the middle class, under tremendous stress, and yet they’re the ones who are being hit hardest, not Wall Street. Explain what has happened. Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, it’s an incredible story. I mean, just to back up and provide some context, I think, for this Wisconsin thing, and especially for the Ohio thing, given what their governor used to do for a living —
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
MATT TAIBBI: Well, he was an employee for Lehman Brothers, and he was —
AMY GOODMAN: This is Governor Kasich.
MATT TAIBBI: Governor Kasich, yeah, and he was intimately involved with selling — getting the state of Ohio’s pension fund to invest in Lehman Brothers and buy mortgage-backed securities. And of course they lost all that money. And this, broadly, was really what the mortgage bubble and the financial crisis was all about. It was essentially a gigantic criminal fraud scheme where all the banks were taking mismarked mortgage-backed securities, very, very dangerous, toxic subprime loans, they were chopping them up and then packaging them as AAA-rated investments, and then selling them to state pension funds, to insurance companies, to Chinese banks and Dutch banks and Icelandic banks. And, of course, these things were blowing up, and all those funds were going broke. But what they’re doing now is they’re blaming the people who were collecting these pensions — they’re blaming the workers, they’re blaming the firemen, they’re blaming the policemen — whereas, in reality, they were actually the victims of this fraud scheme. And the only reason that people aren’t angrier about this, I think, is because they don’t really understand what happened. If these were car companies that had sold a trillion dollars’ worth of defective cars to the citizens of the United States, there would be riots right now. But these were mortgage-backed securities, it’s complicated, people don’t understand it, and they’re only now, I think, beginning to realize that they were defrauded.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the crime is. Who has profited? Who should be on trial?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, you know, again, the broad crime in all of this was just fraud. They were taking — these banks were taking, again, these subprime mortgages, and they would have these billion-dollar pools of mortgages where, in some cases, 70 or 80 percent of the loans were to people who had no identification or no jobs or who had put no money down into the mortgage. And then they were taking these loans and applying this phony baloney, hocus pocus math, these derivative instruments, and turning them into AAA-rated investments. And they were marketing, again, these securities to, say, state pension funds as AAA-rated investments, which means credit risk almost zero. So they took the stuff that they knew was very, very risky and very, very likely to default, and they were going to the state of Wisconsin, the state of Ohio, the state of New York, and saying, "Hey, this is almost as safe as — or in fact, it is as safe as United States Treasury bonds. You should buy this, and you’ll earn a little bit more than you’ll earn if you buy T-bills." The reality was, they were just taking absolutely worthless stuff and sticking it with these people and then fleeing the scene. This is no different than drug dealers who take a bag of oregano and sell it to you as, you know, a pound of weed. That’s exactly the same scam.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about John Mack and Gary Aguirre.
MATT TAIBBI: This is an amazing story, just because it demonstrates how far above the law these people are. John Mack is one of the most powerful people on Wall Street. Right now he’s the chairman of the board at Morgan Stanley. He used to be their CEO. Way back in 2001, when he was sort of between jobs, he had left Morgan Stanley and was interviewing with Credit Suisse First Boston. He was involved in a case that was investigated by the SEC. A hedge fund called Pequot made a very suspicious investment into a company called Heller Capital, which was about to be acquired by General Electric. This hedge fund bought, you know, an enormous amount of Heller stock three weeks before this acquisition by GE of Heller. Credit Suisse First Boston was Heller’s investment banker. John Mack was interviewing for the job with Credit Suisse a few days before Pequot made its purchases, and he was in direct contact with the hedge fund guy who made those purchases. Under any normal circumstances, he would be targeted for investigation by the SEC.
AMY GOODMAN: And his name was?
MATT TAIBBI: The investigator’s name was Gary Aguirre. And Aguirre —
AMY GOODMAN: And the guy buying up?
MATT TAIBBI: Art Samberg was the name of this hedge fund manager. He was a big star on Wall Street. In fact, there are articles about, you know, how does Art Samberg manage his amazing returns year after year? Well, you know, this was sort of a clue as to how.
Anyway, this SEC investigator named Gary Aguirre wanted permission to go interview John Mack, and his superiors at the SEC told him — they basically told him that he couldn’t, and the reason they said was because Mack has, quote-unquote, "powerful political connections." At the time, he was a Ranger, one of Bush’s fundraising Rangers. He would later become a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. So he played both sides of the fence. This, again, is very typical of Wall Street. And Aguirre, when he pressed the matter, he was fired by the SEC.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the high-level people involved, like Mary Jo White.
MATT TAIBBI: Mary Jo White was the former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. She was basically Rudy Giuliani for a few years. This is the top cop on Wall Street, basically. And she, at the time, was representing Morgan Stanley for the defense firm Debevoise & Plimpton. Again, this is what all these investigators do. When you leave a high-ranking position from the SEC or the U.S. attorney’s office, they all jump to these lucrative partnerships at corporate defense firms, where they make, you know, $2, $3, $4 million a year. So the incentives to really prosecute these guys are all backwards. And they all leave, and they take these jobs. Mary Jo White had left the U.S. attorney’s office. She’s representing Debevoise & Plimpton. She intercedes on behalf of Mack. And one of the SEC officials that she was in contact with, Paul Berger, Aguirre’s superior, ended up working for Debevoise & Plimpton a year later. And this is a very typical situation.
AMY GOODMAN: And Aguirre is fired.
MATT TAIBBI: He’s fired. He was —
AMY GOODMAN: He’s told to investigate, and then he starts to seriously investigate, and he’s fired.
MATT TAIBBI: Right. They gave him — two days after he started work at the SEC, one of his superiors handed him Pequot, just generally. They said, you know, "Look at this company." Within a year or so, he was onto the Samberg case, and he had targeted Mack as a clear suspect in the case. He had overwhelming evidence. I mean, there were emails, there was documentary evidence. They put Martha Stewart in jail for much, much less than they had on Mack.
AMY GOODMAN: What did they have on Mack?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, again, they had emails demonstrating that Mack had been in touch by telephone with Samberg. They had the fact that Samberg had a personal relationship with Mack. They knew that the company had never had any meetings about this Heller Capital. It was — Aguirre described it to me as though Samberg awoke one morning, and God Himself told him to start buying shares of Heller Capital. And they had the fact that Mack was clearly privy to the inside information. He had had this meeting with Credit Suisse. He would later say that he destroyed his notes of his meeting with Credit Suisse on the way home from Switzerland, after that meeting. But clearly, he was — under any normal circumstances, he would have been targeted, would have been interviewed, but he was not.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Pequot is bought up?
MATT TAIBBI: Right. Well, no, Heller was bought.
AMY GOODMAN: Heller was bought up.
MATT TAIBBI: By GE, of course.
AMY GOODMAN: By GE. And how much does Samberg make? How much does —
MATT TAIBBI: He made — Samberg made $18 million on that trade. Another important part of the story is that Mack — Samberg cut Mack into a different deal that Pequot was doing, and as a result of that deal, Mack made about $10 million. So, all the dots connect. You know, Mack comes back from Switzerland. Samberg starts buying Heller. GE acquires Heller. Samberg makes $18 million. Mack gets cut in for $10 million. This is the outlines of a classic insider trading case.
AMY GOODMAN: So you think Mack should be in jail.
MATT TAIBBI: Well, he should — absolutely he should have been on trial. I mean, you know, it’s not for me to say; I’m not a jury. But clearly, they have prosecuted on far less evidence before.
AMY GOODMAN: Matt Taibbi, talk about Dick Fuld.
MATT TAIBBI: Well, Richard Fuld, whose nickname on Wall Street was "The Gorilla," he was the head of Lehman Brothers. He was a much feared and ferocious character on Wall Street. And Fuld, again, he oversaw Lehman during this period when it was going through its death spiral, and there were a number of irregularities about Fuld that were extremely interesting.
I talked to a former Lehman Brothers lawyer named Oliver Budde, who was responsible for vetting some of Lehman’s public disclosures, and Budde discovered that Lehman had been hiding about $250 million worth of Fuld’s income from the SEC in its public disclosures. He, too, ended up having to leave his job because he was told that he couldn’t do his job. He protested the way that Lehman was doing its disclosures. He got kicked out. He went to the SEC in 2008, six months before its collapse. He gave them a huge packet of information about what Fuld was doing, and he was completely blown off by the SEC. He tried repeatedly over a period of six months to get them interested in the case. They said no.
When Fuld later testified before Congress, after the company’s collapse, he told Congress that he had only earned somewhere in the region of $350 million during his tenure at Lehman. Budde knew that the real number was more like $520 million. He told the committee members in Congress that Fuld had probably lied while he was testifying. And they weren’t interested in that, either. So here we have a situation where Roger Clemens is being investigated — you know, the state is trying to put Roger Clemens, baseball star, in jail for lying to Congress, but Dick Fuld apparently is not worth going after.
AMY GOODMAN: A man recently named the worst CEO of all time —
MATT TAIBBI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: — by Portfolio magazine.
MATT TAIBBI: Absolutely. Again, Fuld presided over Lehman during this period where it was engaged in all sorts of irregularities. I mean, aside from this matter of hiding his own personal income, Lehman, during the last few years of its existence, was engaged in these very, very shady transactions called the "Repo 105" transactions. This was a kind of Enron-esque accounting where they were essentially borrowing tens of billions of dollars at the end of every quarter and then booking all that money as revenue. So, if you were an investor in Lehman Brothers and you’re looking at their bottom line, you’re thinking, "Hey, they’re making a lot of money. They’re doing great." In fact, those were all loans, and after the quarter was over they were repaying that money. And it was guys like Fuld who were cashing out while everybody else was staying in.
AMY GOODMAN: Oliver Budde, who was he?
MATT TAIBBI: He was Lehman’s lawyer. He was the guy who uncovered those irregularities about Fuld’s reporting income, and he was the guy who went to the SEC and was told that, you know, they weren’t interested in his story.
AMY GOODMAN: No regulation?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, no. I mean, clearly — you know, the interesting thing about the Fuld case is that Lehman had been taking advantage of a loophole in the SEC’s rules in the early part of the 2000s to misreport Fuld’s income. But they actually caught themselves. They noticed that this practice was very widespread, and they created a new rule specifically to target this kind of income hiding that Fuld was doing. But they created the rule, but they didn’t do anything about it. They had clear cases of this rule being misused, and they chose not to do anything about it. So, even when we do have regulation on Wall Street, the laws are really often meaningless, because you need someone who has the will to prosecute, the will to investigate, to make them real.
AMY GOODMAN: Has anyone gone to jail?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, Bernie Madoff. And clearly, he’s the only person in this whole tableau —
AMY GOODMAN: Always called the greatest swindle of all time.
MATT TAIBBI: Right. But Bernie Madoff, honestly, compared to all these other guys, he’s really small potatoes. He’s also not really representative of what went on on Wall Street during this period. He’s a garden variety Ponzi scheme artist. Of course, he did it on a much bigger scale than most Ponzi scheme artists, but this is a crime that could have happened in the '20s, the ’30s, the ’40s. It had nothing to do with this incredibly sophisticated, complex criminal fraud scheme involving, you know, the mortgage bubble and the sale of these phony baloney mortgage-backed securities. Madoff had nothing to do with that. He was just a garden variety criminal. And this is exactly the kind of case that the SEC and the Justice Department do prosecute: these outliers, these guys who are not part of the top echelon executives. And they make these cases, and they say, "Here's evidence we’re doing our job." The reality is very different.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk, Matt Taibbi, about what are the repercussions of what happened. What did the 2008 crash mean?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, it was — you know, this was the collapse of a giant bubble scheme. You know, when they did this, when they pumped the whole country full of these defective cars, which were these defective mortgages, it created a very, very dangerous situation for the entire country. They ended up essentially bankrupting or fatally wounding pension funds and insurance companies and banks all over the country. And so, now we’re all paying for those phony scams.
But the other amazing thing that they did is, you know, the banks, when they flooded the market with these phony securities, some of them were smart enough to realize that they were eventually going to blow, so they started betting against them. They went to companies like AIG, and they took out trillions of dollars of credit default swaps and pseudo-insurance policies on these mortgages. When they all blew up, you know, it blew up some of these companies, like AIG. And that’s what the bailout was really all about. The bailout wasn’t really to pay off real losses in these mortgages. It was really to pay off the bets on these mortgages. So, not only did they flood the market with a trillion dollars of defective merchandise, they got the United States taxpayer to pony up $5, $6, $7 trillion worth of bailout money to pay off their bets on all this stuff.
AMY GOODMAN: Which brings in the Obama administration. You talk about a lot of this happening under President Bush, but talk about what the Obama administration, what Geithner — talk about also Alan Greenspan, through the Bush years.
MATT TAIBBI: Right. Well, the most important thing to get from the Obama administration is that its economic policy represented absolute continuity with the policy of the previous administration. Timothy Geithner was the principal architect of Bush’s bailouts, and he was retained. Ben Bernanke, who was the head of the Fed under Bush, stayed on under Obama.
And they essentially continued the same bailout policy, which, again, was essentially to tell Wall Street that we’re going to make you whole again. You know, after they flooded the entire international economy with all these toxic debt instruments, their policy was to get Wall Street well again, and ostensibly they were supposed to reinvest in the economy and put people back to work. But instead, they just kept the money. And, I mean, they literally went from being completely insolvent to, you know, making $150 billion bonus pools every year, and that money is all public money. It’s pure bailout gift from the taxpayer.
AMY GOODMAN: Is Obama doing this because he’s got to raise a billion dollars in 2012 for the presidential race, and he’s going to turn to Wall Street for this?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, clearly. You know, look, Barack Obama’s number one private campaign contributor was Goldman Sachs. He took more money from Wall Street than any other presidential candidate in history. He was heavily influenced by Wall Street guys. When he was elected, he immediately put Citigroup executives in charge of his economic transition team. I remember when I was covering his campaign how he promised never to bring a registered lobbyist into his cabinet. And one of the first things he did was put Mark Patterson, Goldman Sachs’s lobbyist, in the number two job at the Treasury. He’s got a JPMorgan Chase executive, who has $8 million in Chase stock, as the chief of staff right now. He’s been incredibly friendly to Wall Street. These guys have remained the architects of his economic policy.
AMY GOODMAN: And Jeffrey Immelt, head of GE?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously he was a key player, as well. Again, its continuity with the previous administration is the key thing to focus on.
AMY GOODMAN: Alan Greenspan?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, Greenspan — I think what people don’t understand about the Fed is what an important role the Fed plays in this entire mess. Going back, you know, 20, 25 years, every time Wall Street gets in a lot of trouble, the Fed has been there to bail them out. They even had a term for it on Wall Street called the "Greenspan Put," which essentially meant that every time the banks blew up a speculative bubble, they could go back to the Fed and borrow money at zero or one or two percent, and then start the game all over again.
After the crash in 2008, interest rates were slashed to basically nothing. The banks could go to the Fed and get money for free, and then they’re out lending it to us at five, six, seven — I mean, how much is your interest on your credit cards? It’s 15, 20 percent. It’s almost impossible not to make money in banking if your cost of capital is zero. That’s what banking is all about. And that’s what the Fed has done. It’s provided a massive subsidy system for the banks on Wall Street.
AMY GOODMAN: You say in your article that the justice system has actually evolved into a highly effective mechanism for protecting financial criminals, not just not prosecuting them, but protecting them.
MATT TAIBBI: Right. Well, one of the things that I found out when I was interviewing former SEC officials and whistleblowers, people who had been involved in some of these cases, is, you know, when you look at the revolving door situation with all these — the Mary Jo Whites and the Gary Lynches and the Linda Thompsons, these former high-ranking financial cops who leave government service and they go to work in these millionaire partnerships on Wall Street, it creates this collegial atmosphere where it’s just a few — a small group of lawyers who all know each other, and they’re in this constant merry-go-round, from government, back to private service, back to government again, and they’re really in this — it’s far too collegial.
There’s a scene in my story where the current head of the SEC enforcement, Robert Khuzami, is giving a speech to all these lawyers, and he’s saying, you know, "We have a new policy now where if you’re a defendant or if you’re a company that’s being investigated, you can come to the SEC, and we will get you answers as to whether or not the Department of Justice has a criminal interest in your case." So, essentially, the SEC is now acting as a middleman for these companies, so they can go and find out whether they’re going to be criminally prosecuted. Then, once they get that information, they can make a decision about whether or not to settle financially with the SEC. And they pay a settlement. Nobody gets criminally prosecuted. No individuals ever get fined. They pay these fines, and they almost always have a little section in there that says that they do not admit wrongdoing. So, they don’t even have to say they’re sorry, essentially. These companies go and they pay their fines. No individuals have to suffer at all. And it’s all done in a very collegial way.
AMY GOODMAN: You suggest in your piece that Bernie Madoff went to jail because it was rich people who were the victims.
MATT TAIBBI: Absolutely. Every single former investigator or current investigator that I talked to said the same thing: Madoff went to jail because the wrong people suffered. You know, it was famous actors. It was, you know, the glitterati in New York. If these were teachers and firemen and all the usual suspects — you know, look at the — we have a million people in foreclosure in this country right now, and a lot of them are there because of predatory lending and because of this fraud scheme, but there are no criminal prosecutions. I think that’s the reality now, is that we don’t see anybody being criminally targeted unless their victims were powerful people themselves.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Lynn Turner, the former chief accountant for the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission.
MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, Lynn Turner was the guy that I talked to, the former chief accountant — the chief accountant’s job at the SEC is actually an investigatory position. What they do is they look at disclosure violations, which means, you know, when companies issue their SEC quarterly reports, they have to make sure that everything that they say in those reports are accurate. That’s the chief accountant’s job. And Turner told me that, you know, that was his job, and in his experience, he saw case after case in which they had good evidence against companies that were involved in very shady dealings, and these cases were either slowed down or not pursued at all.
He gave me an example, you know, the Rite Aid case, which of course turned into — there were many cases like Rite Aid, that, you know, they had this case years before the Enron case blew up. They maybe could have done something about Enron if they had proceeded fast enough.
AMY GOODMAN: And the Rite Aid case was?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, Rite Aid was a company that was hiding billions of dollars in losses. It’s similar to the Lehman Brothers situation. They were trying to make their bottom line look better for shareholders, so they created, you know, these little cookie jar companies to hide their losses in. This is very similar to what Enron was doing, very similar to what WorldCom was doing. They had plenty of evidence on this case, but the case went nowhere for seven, eight years. And this is the typical MO of the SEC. They just do not act fast enough.
AMY GOODMAN: You mention that before the corruption starts, the state is at a disadvantage because policing Wall Street requires serious intellectual firepower, and the banks seize a huge advantage from the start by hiring away the top talent.
MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, you know, one lawyer I talked to put it to me this way. He said everybody knows that the top 80 percent of all the graduating classes of all the best law schools, they go to Wall Street. They go to these corporate defense firms where they get the real money-making jobs. The bottom 20 percent, he says, go to the SEC. That’s the way this works. And, you know, the way he described it, he says, "It’s just such a mismatch, it’s not even funny." And even that 20 percent, of course, they get roped into the revolving door situation, so if any talent rises from that pool into positions of responsibility, they get lured away by the million-dollar partnerships.
So what your left is — you know, not to insult the people who work at the SEC, but clearly, the very best and brightest lawyers are working for these banks, where they continually come up with these very fiendish and almost brilliant defenses for the schemes that their companies are involved with. They always find a way to claim that what we did was legal, and they come up with these elaborate justifications. And some of these lawyers are really overwhelmed by these justifications, and they end up, you know, not having the gumption to prosecute or move forward with cases.
AMY GOODMAN: You think of the thousands of people who have been deported in the last years?
MATT TAIBBI: Three hundred and ninety-three thousand last year.
AMY GOODMAN: You think of the people who have gone to prison and what they’ve gone to prison for.
MATT TAIBBI: Right, right. You know, it’s incredible. I mean, there was a case in Ohio that somebody forwarded to me, where a woman, a single — a black single mother of two children, she lied about where she was living so that her two kids could get into a better school system. And the state of Ohio actually prosecuted her for fraud, and the judge in that case insisted — they sentenced her to, actually, I think it was five years in jail, but they insisted that she actually do 15 days. And the judge’s quote in that case was that if she didn’t do real jail time, that would demean the seriousness of the offense. And so, I mean, the case was ultimately commuted because of the public outcry, but this, to me, is symptomatic of what we’re dealing with here.
You have people in this country who — we have two-and-a-half million people in jail this country, you know, more than a million who are in jail for nonviolent crimes. And yet, we couldn’t find a single person on Wall Street to do even a day in jail for losing 40 percent of the world’s wealth in a criminal fraud scheme? And that tells you that we have — this goes beyond the cliché that rich people have better lawyers and they have an advantage. This is a step beyond that. This is a situation where the system is completely corrupted, and it’s true regulatory capture. The SEC and the Justice Department are essentially subsidiaries of Wall Street.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you mentioned Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley, newly appointed. What, $20 million he made last year, mainly from Chase.
MATT TAIBBI: Right, right. I mean, it’s —
AMY GOODMAN: What about the media coverage, when people are being appointed, when these deals are made, talking about just basic tenets of good journalism, following the money, talking about who’s profiting where and who’s surrounding those who are making these decisions?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, it’s funny. The general narrative with political journalism in this country — and I know, because I was one of these people for a long time. I covered presidential campaigns and presidential politics. A lot of the reporters who cover the stuff don’t know a whole lot about economics, and so they believe this sort of general notion that the guys on Wall Street are the experts; if you want to have somebody running your economy, you have to go to the experts; so it makes perfect sense that the President would want to surround himself with executives from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. And I think that their thinking doesn’t really get any more sophisticated than that. And so, a lot of these guys get a pass. Then people don’t really look at what these companies have been up to, what kind of influence they might have over the President’s decision making. And so, I think there isn’t very much coverage. There isn’t enough debate about what these appointments mean.
AMY GOODMAN: If you were president, what would you do right now?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, I would certainly get rid of all those guys, you know, from Wall Street. I think there needs to be a freeze on foreclosures. I mean, there’s all kinds of things that need to be done. But the most important thing is we have to, you know, get the right people into bodies like the SEC and the Justice Department. Everybody I talked to said the same thing. The existing laws we have, you know, they’re not perfect, but they’re probably good enough to do some real good. It’s just that we don’t have the right people in the jobs, and the will isn’t there to do these prosecutions. So, I think we’ve just got to get the right people in the right jobs.
AMY GOODMAN: Matt Taibbi, his latest piece, "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?" It’s in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Thanks so much.
MATT TAIBBI: Thank you, Amy.
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