Chris Hedges made this statement in New York City’s Zuccotti Park on Thursday morning during the People’s Hearing on Goldman Sachs, which he chaired with Dr. Cornel West. The activist and Truthdig columnist then joined a march of several hundred protesters to the nearby corporate headquarters of Goldman Sachs, where he was arrested with 16 others.
Goldman Sachs, which received more subsidies and bailout-related funds than any other investment bank because the Federal Reserve permitted it to become a bank holding company under its “emergency situation,” has used billions in taxpayer money to enrich itself and reward its top executives. It handed its senior employees a staggering $18 billion in 2009, $16 billion in 2010 and $10 billion in 2011 in mega-bonuses. This massive transfer of wealth upwards by the Bush and Obama administrations, now estimated at $13 trillion to $14 trillion, went into the pockets of those who carried out fraud and criminal activity rather than the victims who lost their jobs, their savings and often their homes.
Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. Goldman Sachs hoards rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock and jacks up commodity prices around the globe so that poor families can no longer afford basic staples and literally starve. Goldman Sachs is able to carry out its malfeasance at home and in global markets because it has former officials filtered throughout the government and lavishly funds compliant politicians—including Barack Obama, who received $1 million from employees at Goldman Sachs in 2008 when he ran for president. These politicians, in return, permit Goldman Sachs to ignore security laws that under a functioning judiciary system would see the firm indicted for felony fraud. Or, as in the case of Bill Clinton, these politicians pass laws such as the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act that effectively removed all oversight and outside control over the speculation in commodities, one of the major reasons food prices have soared. In 2008 and again in 2010 prices for crops such as rice, wheat and corn doubled and even tripled, making life precarious for hundreds of millions of people. And it was all done so a few corporate oligarchs, the 1 percent, could make personal fortunes in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite a damning 650-page Senate subcommittee investigation report, no individual at Goldman Sachs has been indicted, although the report accuses Goldman of defrauding its clients.
When the government in the fall 2008 provided the firm with billions of dollars in the form of cheap loans, FDIC debt guarantees, TARP, AIG make-wholes, and a late-night label-shift from investment bank to bank holding company, giving the firm access to excessive Federal Reserve aid, access [the corporation] still has, it enabled and abetted Goldman’s criminal behavior. Goldman Sachs unloaded billions in worthless securities to its clients, decimating 401(k)s, pension and mutual funds. The firm misled investors about the true nature of these worthless securities, insisted the securities they were pushing on their clients were sound, and hid the material fact that, simultaneously, they were betting against these same securities—$2 billion against just one of their deals. The firm then had the gall to extort from its victims—us—to make good on its bets when the global economy it helped trash lost $40 trillion in worldwide wealth and huge insurance firms were unable to cover their bad debts.
The Securities Act of 1933, established in the wake of the massive fraud that pervaded the securities market before the 1929 Crash, was written to ensure that “any securities transactions are not based on fraudulent information or practices.” The act “prohibits deceit, misrepresentation, and other fraud in the sale of securities.” The subcommittee report indicates that Goldman Sachs clearly broke security laws.
As part of the political theater that has come to replace the legislative and judicial process, the Securities and Exchange Commission agreed to a $550 million settlement whereby Goldman Sachs admitted it showed “incomplete” information in marketing materials and that it was a “mistake” to not disclose the nature of its portfolio selection committee. This fine was a payoff to the SEC by Goldman Sachs of about four days’ worth of revenue, and in return they avoided going to court. CEO Lloyd Blankfein apparently not only lied to clients, but to the subcommittee itself on April 27, 2010, when he told lawmakers: “We didn’t have a massive short against the housing market, and we certainly did not bet against our clients.” Yet, they did.
And yet nothing has been done. No Goldman Sachs officials have gone to trial. This is because there is no way within the corporate state to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs. There is no way through the formal mechanisms of power to restore the rule of law. There is no way to protect the ordinary citizen and the poor around the globe from the predatory activity of financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs. Since our courts refuse to put on trial the senior executives at Goldman Sachs, including Blankfein, who carried out these crimes and lied to cover them up, we will. Speculators like those in Goldman Sachs—who in the 17th century when speculation was a crime would have been hanged—must be prevented by law from again destroying our economy, preying on ordinary citizens, hoarding food so the poor starve and running our political process. We are paying for these crimes—not those who orchestrated perhaps the most massive fraud in human history. Our teachers, police, firefighters and public employees are losing their jobs so speculators like Blankfein can make an estimated $250,000 a day. Working men and women are losing their homes and going into personal bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills. Our unemployed, far closer to 20 percent than the official 9 percent, are in deep distress all so a criminal class, a few blocks from where I speak, can wallow in luxury with mansions and yachts and swollen bank accounts.
What we are asking for today is simple—it is a return to the rule of law. And since the formal mechanisms of power refuse to restore the rule of law, then we, the 99 percent, will have to see that justice is done.