Too Big to Jail
More than two decades ago, during the savings and loan crisis, Bill Black exposed the Keating Five, senators who took big campaign contributions from the most infamous of the savings and loan executives and then tried to hide their crimes by stopping bank examiners from doing their job.
The scandal ended the careers of three of those senators. One of them—John McCain—went on to run for president. Black also helped prosecutors convict more than 3,000 crooked bankers, a third of them high-level executives. He also trained bank examiners and FBI agents in what to look for and showed prosecutors how to frame charges and present complicated evidence to juries in a compelling manner.
After that, Black, a lawyer, got a doctorate in criminology and developed a theory he calls “control fraud” to describe how corrupt bankers turn legitimate institutions into criminal enterprises. He devised techniques to help bank regulators quickly spot crooked banking practices, and rolled all this into a book,The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One.
With a track record like that, you might think Black would have been the first person President Barack Obama called when he took office five years ago as the economy was being gutted because of reckless and rapacious banking practices that plundered profits through subprime mortgages and devilish derivatives. A second Great Depression was stalking America, as the stock market was tanking and businesses small and large were hemorrhaging jobs.