District Attorney Carol Chambers, who instituted the policy late last year, has pitted monetary incentive directly against Justice Sutherland’s eloquent summary of a prosecutor’s duty. By paying only for trial success and ignoring successful plea bargains (not to mention cases dropped for lack of merit), Ms. Chambers unconditionally encourages her office to take cases to trial; unsurprisingly, in 2010 her district held vastly more felony trials than districts like Colorado’s Second District, which includes Denver.
My comfortable (and naïve) perception that all was right in the world of gender and employment was snapped earlier this week. I was attended a conference at no less than the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, just across Lafayette Park from the White House. I was there to see and hear Professor Elizabeth Warren. Since 2008, she has been a powerful voice for consumers; no, she has been the most powerful voice for consumers. And now as she races to get the new Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB) up and running, she faces the full court press of corporate, banking and Wall Street interests attempting to derail her.
Professor Warren is really good; straightforward, persuasive and… well… charming. And this was no friendly audience. She followed Congressman Spencer Bachus of Alabama to the lectern. He is the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. The Congressman rather derisively referred to Professor Warren as “a nice lady”. He then went on to suggest she and her agency — the CFPB — were omnipotent and would destroy competitive markets, while imposing a Maoist (that’s no typo) style of “total regulation” on the capital markets.
You have probably heard the recent news in the media about fluoride risks; a growing “Fluoridegate” scandal; cities dropping their longstanding policy of water fluoridation; and concerns about fluoride harm to kidneys, bones, thyroid glands, and teeth. For decades, Americans have heard of a long-simmering controversy over the whole-body safety of ingested fluorides. Now government agencies and private sector groups are admitting concerns about the impact to the body from fluorides in numerous consumer products, including water, beverages, foods made with fluoridated water or containing fluoride fumigant residues, and oral care products.
Far from being penalized, even slapped on the writs, big banks–specifically Bank of America, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs–are enjoying the time of their lives. They are saving tremendously to the tune of billions by refusing to service distressed properties and loans. “Walk away fellas and don’t look back.” Instead, they are using some of that money wisely to lobby Congress and it’s working.
Prosecutors may have gotten just a bit too greedy in this one. They need to be conservative and beyond reproach. Their job is not to win cases, but it is to a higher calling. As the Supreme Court famously said over a generation ago, they are empowered to do justice. In some cases that might mean walking away from even the strongest of evidence.
In a previous post in The Intelligent Observer I expressed my opposition to American military action in Libya. Now we are in it, and as Sarah Palin said the other night to Greta Van Susteren, “as long as we’re in it — we better be in it to win it. And if there’s doubt, we… Continue Reading
As a consumer advocate, I should be against this one. Concentration of economic power corrupts. Having only one phone company (or two) means higher prices, less choice, onerous contract terms and stifled innovation. Didn’t we break up the “old” AT&T for this precise reason?
It is only natural for the jury to be distracted. Mr. Blankfein’s presence overshadows the courtroom dynamic of prosecution versus defense. Although I was not in the courtroom, it also seems as if the jury could take away the conclusion that this is all about making money and Raj, Lloyd and Mr. Gupta are all just trying to get their piece of the pie.
Presumably, the prosecution reasons that it is powerful evidence to hear Goldman’s CEO confirm that the phone call “violate[s] Goldman Sachs’ confidentiality policy.” Bad decision. Sure, it looks powerful to call the CEO of Goldman to the stand, but isn’t that using a sledgehammer to crack a nut?
Last year it was Judge Rakoff’s refusal to accept a proposed settlement between Merrill Lynch, soon to be Bank of America and the SEC. He almost made the parties go to trial but in the end accepted some modest changes to the settlement and let the parties move forward. The Judge was hardly throwing real punches, just shadow boxing. Well he’s at it again.
In government, as in life, it is always easy to take the path of least resistance. “Keep your head down, let someone else make a decision and do what makes everyone around you happy.” But leadership takes courage. It takes a willingness to stick your neck out for what you believe. Over the weekend, I thought of these three very different, yet courageous leaders and wondered who would be viewed as the most courageous:
Mr. Rajaratnam and his legal team sure have their work cut out for them. These audio tapes are devastating. They have, as we prosecutors and former prosecutors have often said, "the ring of truth to them". Of course people are going to be nervous about trading on insider information. Remember, for the most part this gang… Continue Reading
So Congress, let’s not bemoan Professor Warren’s appropriate role in discussions regarding mortgage servicing reform. Answer to your constituents on main street and let Professor Warren do her job.
The Consumer Law and Policy Blog keeps readers abreast of the issues of the day in consumer law. Today’s post features an article I wrote about American Express’ ability to control thousands of merchants with just one simple contract provision.
No doubt consumers may rely on those BBB ratings and spend hard earned money on a product or service that not only doesn’t deserve an A+, but one that they wouldn’t purchase if they knew the truth. How does that foster trust in the marketplace? Finally, what’s the incentive of doing a better job when companies can get an A + without even going to class?
Following that strategy, batting lead-off, instead of at number three or four, is Raj’s friend from the Wharton School of business, Mr. Anul Kumar. Mr. Kumar dispassionately explained how the defendant offered him $500,000 per year for inside information.
The Post doesn’t call for specific actions in Libya, but seems to suggest the following: a no-fly zone, arming the rebels, and recognizing the rebel’s administration in Benghazi. This is a fairly typical formulation by the proponents of “doing something.”
Forget the theatrics of the opening statement. Most cases are won or lost before trial. Over the strenuous objections of Mr. Rajaratnam’s attorney John Dowd, Judge Howell allowed the prosecution to introduce 2700 taped conversations. He will more than likely be found guilty of something.
It’s fair. A tax increase to lower the deficit forces everyone to pay more – even those who have already paid their fair share. The whistleblower targets those that tried to cut corners — putting the burden on others. So charge on whistleblowers and thank goodness the IRS is finally responding.
Rescuing the rating agencies from the “time out” they deserved, the SEC gave them a free pass. First temporary, now permanent; a “no action letter” was granted providing agencies with an absolute defense to investor lawsuits.
Thanks to modern whistleblower incentives and protections, we can hope that a few brave souls who witness securities violations will have the courage to chase these criminals down the street yelling, “Stop, thief.”
I suggest a new, perhaps radical idea: rebranding. And the beauty of it is, I want to leave it open to the readers to do so. With that I announce: The Corporate Observer ‘Whistleblower’ Renaming Contest.
Today the National Whistleblower Center released The Whistleblower’s Handbook.