The Richmond Register

October 6, 2013

Why ‘Too Big to Jail’ sticks it to Main Street

By Don McNay
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — I've been a fierce critic of Wall Street and especially the Wall Street bailouts. If you study my writing over the years, there is one bank that gets off easy.

J.P. Morgan Chase.

When I look out of my Richmond office, I see a branch of J.P. Morgan Chase sitting right on Main Street. I don't have that same issue with Goldman Sachs.

Although the J.P. Morgan Chase branch is actually the result of a first-rate local bank being sold to larger and larger corporations, I still see it as part of my downtown.

I don’t see it as part of Main Street anymore. No one in Richmond Kentucky, could waltz into the office of the Attorney General of the United States and try to cut a sweetheart deal before litigation.

According to the Washington Post, that is exactly what Jamie Dimon did.

The Post said that J.P. Morgan executive Jamie Dimon personally met with Attorney General Eric Holder “as the nation’s biggest bank attempts to end federal and state investigations into its liability for selling shoddy mortgage securities.”

In case you don’t know who Jamie Dimon is, he is a Wall Street hotshot who some people thought would be Obama's Secretary of the Treasury.

That was before it came out that one J.P. Morgan trader known as “London Whale” lost $6.2 billion for the company. It was before the obvious truth has finally started coming out, that J.P. Morgan was selling worthless mortgage securities to unsuspecting suckers on Main Street and knew they were worthless. It was before federal probes into its debt collection practices, and it was before federal probes into its manipulations of interest rate benchmarks.

Whether their actions are criminal is one that prosecutors ought to put in front of a jury and let the justice system do its thing.

Instead, the “too big to jail” philosophy of Attorney General Holder will sweep J.P. Morgan’s sins under a rug.

Holder and Obama will pat themselves on the back for collecting a fine and writing Jamie a really mean letter.

In the meantime, it has been pointed out over and over that no one on Wall Street has traded their tailor made suits for prison jump suits.

No one on Wall Street ever thanked the American people for bailing them out either.

Wall Street has an entitled attitude. One thing the Obama administration has focused on, however, is making it harder for Main Street banks to exist.

It’s not hard for the “too big to jail” banks to deal with the regulations. Anytime they have a problem, they truck on down to Washington, meet with the Attorney General and cut a deal.

I don’t see my Kentucky banker friends doing that. They are hiring auditors and extra staff to comply with the laws as they are written.

It’s getting harder to do business with one of my Main Street banks. The staff has become a revolving door. Getting a loan is just about impossible, even if you have great credit. A huge proportion of their income is used to comply with new regulations and regulators.

They all privately complain but know that no one in Washington is listening or really cares.

All the bailout money in 2008 kept bad business people and bad business models alive on Wall Street is putting good people on Main Street out of business.

It’s like telling the American people that crime pays and only suckers are honest.

I don’t know if Jamie Dimon deserves to spend some time in the big house, but I feel like he lied to me. During the financial crisis, Jamie testified in front of Congress that if anyone had a problem, to write to him personally and he would personally handle it.

I took him up on the offer.

I sent my complaint to Jamie’s office in New York via overnight mail. I went to great lengths to make sure I had the proper address.

It’s been five years. I’m still sitting by the phone waiting for him to call.

Maybe I should have sent the package to Eric Holder's office instead and asked him to hand it to Jamie the next time they had tea.

I want thriving Main Street banks that I can move my money to. Most of all, I want the financial system to be honest. I want the good people to win and the bad people to be shut down and locked up.

I want America to act like a place where justice is doled out on a level playing field.

I hope President Obama and Eric Holder understand there are a lot of people on Main Street who want the same thing.