Doing God’s Work – Why Bernie Matters for New York, America, and the World


In the wake of the financial crisis, defending his firm against the wrath of public opinion in November 2009, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, infamously quipped he was just “doing God’s work.” The Lloyd Blankfein I knew when I was a managing director at Goldman Sachs was no comedian. The risk that the current construction of Wall Street banks still imposes upon the general economy is no joke.

Enter Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn-born presidential contender that has never been paid to perform for Goldman. His message to break up the big banks into less complex components has been ripped apart as single-issue politics, naïve, out of touch with the reality of how things get done. This, from former New York Senator, Hillary Clinton, whose senatorial term covered the entire financial crisis build-up period. Especially for New Yorkers – this IS the most critical issue to consider on Tuesday.

The Big Six banks are bigger (in terms of deposits, assets, and trading market share) than before the financial crisis. This continues to cost taxpayers money.  They have settled various lawsuits and federal investigations for about $130 billion in fines since the crisis. Aside from individuals whose losses were directly caused by the associated practices, we collectively paid and pay for the public service hours of the United States Justice Department and Attorney General offices in handling these investigations and suits. Meanwhile, the remaining threat underlying these actions remains intact. CDOs (collateralized debt obligation at the heart of the financial crisis) get bought and sold daily. They’re called BOT’s now – bespoke tranche opportunities. Same old. Dodd-Frank did not change the size, complexity, inter-dependent relationships or estoric security engineering capabilities of any of the big banks. JPM Chase, the largest US (and New York-based) bank, cared so little about Dodd Frank’s tepid requirement for a “living will” (a ‘what-happens-now-plan’ for after a crisis hits, liquidity dies and people are screwed anyway) that along with four other big banks, it didn’t even bother to spend time putting  a plan together. Think about that.  Dodd-Frank is not pre-emptive security to begin with, and yet, a bank that benefitted from acquiring two other banks during the crisis, doesn’t care about even pretending to be concerned with an emergency plan that doesn’t involve government support.

New York based banks were involved in crimes ranging from mortgage securities fraud, to foreign exchange rate manipulation to interest rate rigging to violation of anti-money laundering laws to a host of other financial shenanigans.  Just last week, Goldman Sachs dusted off another $5 billion settlement (much of it tax-deductible) for misleading investors. It isn’t over.

Big Banks retain big power, not just over susceptible politicians that financially gain from these relationships in a myriad of ways from campaign contributions to five-figure a plate fundraising dinners to Super PAC and Foundation millions, but over us – our deposits, financial assets and the stability of our economic futures.

Bernie’s overall answer regarding breaking up the banks and actually reducing their systemic risk to the Daily News was correct – it requires a coordinated effort – and the will – from the President, Congress, Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, and the American people. That’s how New York son, FDR got it done when he passed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that reduced the hazzard of Wall Street’s risk appetite. (Even Republican banks, such as Winthrop Aldrich then then-Chairman of Chase Bank, a legacy bank of JPM Chase, helped – AND – he broke up Chase, as his colleague James Perkins who ran National City Bank (now Citigroup) broke up his bank – before the law was passed.

It was Bernie that was invited to speak at the Vatican on unemployment, poverty, and creating an “economy that works for all people rather than just a few.” As long as the financial game remains rigged and its landscape unaltered, another tumultuous meltdown is inevitable – not impacting those at the top, but crushing the masses at the bottom. Ordinary. Everyday. New Yorkers.

We are about eight years from the onset of the global financial crash that cratered the economy, killed a couple of investment banks and sent the stocks of the surviving Big Six banks plummeting. They recovered with federal aid. Mega-socialism to Wall Street.  That cycle of banking-led problems and gross government negligence prevails today.

New Yorker’s should be concerned about Wall Street – not what might happen under Hillary’s “plan” (or Trump’s or Cruz’s lack thereof) but what is happening now – among other dangers and injustices, on-going multi-billion dollar fines supported by taxpayers and capitulating policies.

Breaking up banks is not anti-bank, it’s pro-people. That’s a distinction that Bernie (and the Vatican) have made. And one that wasn’t expressed during any of Hillary’s years as a New York Senator.

Bernie was criticized for not pointing to a “single” law over which to prosecute big banks in his Daily News interview. Bernie did far more – he underscored the systemic criminality intrinsic to each Wall Street settlement that centers on multiple manifestations of fraud through misleading investors and the public (which is against SEC laws). Not to mention the felony counts that New York-based JPM Chase and four other banks copped to regarding foreign-exchange rate rigging. These cases are settled because banks can afford to settle them, not because the lawsuits weren’t predicated on criminal enterprise. They were. Since 2012, Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman’s working group has agreed to $45 billion worth of settlements – with just New York-based banks.

If you break up a bank, you break up its ability to scam the public, to stuff loans into fraudulently presented toxic assets and trade them to unsuspecting pension funds. That’s what Glass Steagall prevented for decades. You also reduce the cost of investigation and settlements. You reduce the possibility of anyone’s deposit account or mortage loan or insurance contract being held hostage during the next government bailout. You reduce the power inequality that spawns economic inequality. You create longer-lasting global stability. You vote for Bernie.


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Nomi Prins is the author of six books, a speaker, and a distinguished senior fellow at the non-partisan public policy institute, Demos. Her most recent book, All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power (Nation Books) has just been released in paperback and this piece is adapted and updated from it. She is a former Wall Street executive.