After the financial sector’s bad business practices nearly caused a collapse of this country’s economic system, it was bailed out—by taxpayers—to the tune of $700 million in government funds. At the time, many Americans balked at the huge sum. Most, however, came to realize that saving banks was a necessary step in saving the overall economy. Most of us also hoped that, down the road, the banks—and those who lead them—would be in some way punished for their many missteps.
Unfortunately, federal prosecutors are not in sync with the thoughts of the American public; the deals they’re striking with these bad behaving banks amount to little more than slaps on the wrists. Prosecutors aren’t, for the most part, seeking to press criminal charges against banking executives who knowingly hid or misinterpreted information from investors and the public. Instead, they’re agreeing to let the banks publicly admit to wrongdoing and allowing them to walk away with a fine.
Thank God for judges! A few smart, call it as they see it federal judges are shocked and outraged by the surprisingly lenient penances these banks are being allowed to negotiate. And they’re expressing their displeasure to prosecutors, instructing them to go back to the drawing board and return to court with punishments that somehow reflect the seriousness of the crimes.
These judges are acting as the eyes and ears of the American people, representing our desire to see justice served. They should continue to do just that. The financial sector is the last one that deserves a break. Families and small business owners drive our economy yet they’ve received very few breaks. Instead, they’ve lost their homes and had to close their businesses when it became obvious that the government had not created a bail out plan for them. Thankfully, the judges hearing these cases are able to break away from the tradition of agreeing with whatever deal the prosecutor recommends and, instead, forces justice to be served.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of RainbowPUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)