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Wall Street Scrutinized for Fraud, Fat Paychecks

POSTED: 11:04 AM ET, 09/24/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The FBI's decision to investigate criminal wrongdoing at four troubled financial firms at the center of the market's dramatic shakeup represents one of the bureau's largest undertakings in years, a potentially more daunting task than the five-years-long investigation into Enron.

Federal officials announced that they will probe Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and American International Group Inc., bringing to 26 the number of financial institutions under scrutiny, The Post's Carrie Johnson reports. (CNN reports that Countrywide Financial is part of the investigation, too.)


As Congress debates a $700 billion bailout plan, pressure is rising to find a way to restrict the multi-million-dollar pay and bonuses for executives at investment houses, banks and mortgage lenders. For example, Richard Fuld Jr., chief executive at now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, made $34 million in 2007, the East Bay Business Times reports. Business Week, however, suggests that such measures may be more difficult to impose than many lawmakers think.

The highest profile criminal cases related to the housing crisis so far involve two former Bear Stearns hedge-fund managers indicted in June for allegedly misleading clients about the risk of certain investments, a case that took months to establish.

The Wall Street Journal writes that it is unlikely a Charles Keating-type figure will emerge from the FBI's investigation into Wall Street (Keating served four years in prison for fraud related to the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s.).

It is more likely, the paper reported, that the bureau will pursue hundreds of smaller, "retail-level" fraud cases against individual brokers, real-estate agents and buyers. (The FBI has already launched a state-level mortgage fraud task force in December that resulted in hundreds of indictments of brokers, lenders and buyers this summer.)

The New York Times notes that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has rejected calls for an Enron-like national task force to look into Wall Street's problems, saying the wrongdoing in the mortgage crisis was more localized and similar to "white-collar street crime."

While lawmakers mull how big a bailout to approve and whether to impose limits on Wall Street compensation, the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation points out that many of them have received substantial contributions from finance, insurance and real estate firms. For example, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has raised some $13 million since 1989 from such companies, 30 percent of his total contributions. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has taken $2.4 million from those firms, or roughly 31 percent.

By Derek Kravitz |  September 24, 2008; 11:04 AM ET Economy Watch
Previous: Bailout Debate, McCain's Freddie Mac Ties, CVS Donor Access | Next: Oil Traders Subpoenaed After Price Surge

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What separates humans from all other living creatures is the ability to reason.Compassion,empathy,forgiveness are wonderful examples of our differences.Greed in this country on the other hand,has made me wish for reincarnation as a cat.Would someone please,please,tell me how much is enough? Why is it that those who do the least,usually make(not earn)the most? CEO's of faltering companies earn more in 1yr. than I will in a lifetime of 40+ hrs a week.When publicly traded companies sales(therefore stock value)is off a fraction,do the top 5% of executives take a voluntary pay-cut,or, lay-off perhaps hundreds or thousands of common folk just trying to survive.I now know why other countries despise the U.S.Our credo is not"IN GOD WE TRUST",it is "in GREED we trust".

Posted by: Monte Miller | September 24, 2008 8:01 PM

We no longer see much of former senator Phil Gramm John McCain economic adviser. Mr. Gramm was the chief sponsor of the 1999 the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. that removed restrictions on investments banks, the Glass-Steagall Act. of 1933. Phil Gramm as Vice Chairman of investment bank Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), lately teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. UBS is currently under investigation for helping wealthy Americans avoid taxes by hiding assets in Switzerland while now anticipating bail out support from US taxpayers.

Posted by: Olle Larsson | September 24, 2008 10:22 PM

the ONLY organization equipped to handle this mess is the BANKRUPTCY COURTS.

if wall street was given a choice between bankruptcy court (including civil/criminal lawsuits) and NO GOVT BAILOUT.

don't you think they would find a way out of their hole?

think about it.

these guys are just waiting to see of Congress is dumb enough to blink and approve of a bailout.

otherwise - if faced with bankruptcy and legal action in which their personal assets were on the line,

i just bet this would end over-night.

Posted by: frank | September 24, 2008 10:39 PM

The current philosophy appears to be based on the old MTV slogan: Too much is never enough. Or, in other words, There's no such thing as too much money.
For each of us who desire to have enough for ourselves if single, and for our families if not, with a cushion for the unexpected, we need to believe in contentment. I grew up with people who believed in that.

Ed West

Posted by: Ed West | September 25, 2008 12:13 PM

The current philosophy appears to be based on the old MTV slogan: Too much is never enough. Or, in other words, There's no such thing as too much money.
For each of us who desire to have enough for ourselves if single, and for our families if not, with a cushion for the unexpected, we need to believe in contentment. I grew up with people who believed in that.

Ed West

Posted by: Ed West | September 25, 2008 12:14 PM

Real Estate fraud happens on all levels. There are 1000 scams to steal your home or land. These extortions rarely are prosecuted because courts almost 100% side with the criminals. Eminent Domain, if it is used too often, can alarm a community. Municipalies often cooperate with criminals to extort homes and real estate in order to obtain more "taxable" benefit. One of the best sites detailing some of these frauds is: www.freewebs.com/propertytheft/

Posted by: Concerned Home Owner | September 27, 2008 12:50 PM

If I wanted to live in a socialist country I would move there. When my company was in financial straits the Banks lost faith in my company. We downsized and survived as a smaller firm. No Help for the fat cats

Posted by: Bill | September 29, 2008 4:02 PM

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