Elizabeth Warren hasn’t left the financial crisis behind—she wants the FBI to hand over the records of its investigations into criminal behavior at Wall Street banks before the crash.
And she says she has grounds to do so after federal law enforcement officials gave extraordinary public access to their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.
Eight years ago today, the financial markets seized up after the bankruptcy of the investment firm Lehman Bros. You’ve probably noticed that there have been no criminal prosecutions of bank executives in the wake of that crisis.
That is true despite the fact that the federal commission authorized to investigate the crisis referred nine individuals to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution, including former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, as well as executives at Fannie Mae, Citigroup, AIG and Merrill Lynch. None were charged.
Fourteen corporations were also referred for criminal prosecution. The end product was civil settlements, with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citibank paying billions to settle claims that they lied about the quality of mortgages in bonds they packaged.
Normally, the discussion would end here. But this year, in an unusual, unrelated decision, FBI Director James Comey released interview notes and a summary of his agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal e-mail server, despite his agency’s decision not to charge her with any crime.
The revelations became a public spectacle but did not reveal any new information suggesting illegal behavior. Yet bank executives whose companies lied to customers have not had their “I do not recall” depositions put before the public.
Comey said his disclosure decision in the Clinton investigation came only because of “intense public interest.” Warren says that same standard should apply to the financial crisis, and is demanding “all investigative materials related to the FBI investigations and prosecution recommendations of individuals and corporations referred to the DOJ by the FCIC.”
Warren also wants the Department of Justice’s inspector general to investigate why no charges were forthcoming, and for Comey to testify about why the agency (which Comey has led since 2013) chose not to charge any of those people with crimes related to the crisis.
It seems unlikely that the FBI will comply with Warren’s request; it’s not even clear what kind of investigation was performed. But a rejection would underscore that for all the allegations of Clinton’s coziness to the financial sector, she still faces tougher scrutiny for sending e-mails than bankers have faced for bringing down the global economy.
And time is running out: Prosecutors have just ten years to prosecute many financial crimes.