Congress has rightly engaged in a barrage of CEO bashing. Fine. But that’s easy cheap-talk. What is needed is prosecution and jailing of CEOs who tolerate fraudulent schemes. Also needed: job protection for bank whistleblowers.
Case in point: Wells Fargo.
About 5,300 employees of the bank were fired for illegally opening millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts. The employees did so in order to meet aggressive sales goals.
Wells Fargo was ordered to pay a fine of $100 million, the largest ever dealt out by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Wells Fargo also must pay $85 million in restitution to other regulators who incurred fees on the sham accounts.
An editorial in the New York Times hailed the CFPB “as the hero of the story.”
“The bureau’s enforcement actions and investigations yielded $12 billion in financial relief and restitution to 27 million consumers. They were wronged in cases involving mortgages, credit cards, debit cards and student loans.”
The villain of the piece: Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. He was unable to answer satisfactorily incredulous congressional questioners when he said he never was told about the scam.
When the fire from angry Wells Fargo depositors became too intense, Stumpf resigned as CEO and chairman of the company board.
Good news. But jail time for such CEOs might discourage other CEOs from defrauding the public. A law should prevent bank whistleblowers from being fired for revealing fraud. Wells Fargo employees had no job protection for telling the truth.
WHISTLEBLOWERS RECALL ZENGER CASE
The U.S. government, unmindful of the Zenger precedent, treats its heroic whistleblowers as criminals.
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was tortured, strip-searched, placed in solitary confinement and sentenced to prison for 35 years. Whistleblower Julian Assange, who founded WikiLeaks, is safe in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Whistleblower Edward Snowden is exiled in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow.
All three whistleblowers leaked documents enlightening people about government abuse of power.
But the government ignores the sacred American principal established in the case of John Peter Zenger, a colonial New York publisher charged with seditious libel in 1735 for criticizing the government.
At trial the judge instructed the jury that truth was no defense. But the Zenger lawyer sharply disagreed. The jury, agreeing with the attorney and ignoring the judge, acquitted Zenger.
The Constitution, in effect, ratified the verdict in 1791 in the First Amendment. The Mighty First embeds the freedom-of-the-press doctrine in the nation’s founding charter.
COLONIZATION OF PALESTINE
“What we saw was one of the biggest human rights disasters in history, a brutal military occupation sponsored by the United States with another $38 billion in tax dollars,” author Abby Martin writes on Truthout. “It’s the largest aid package ever.
“This is the state of Israel today,” Martin declares in the latest episode of her series, “The Empire Files.” She sketches how Martin and her team traveled to Palestine recently to witness what she calls “Israel’s ruthless occupation.”
She tells the history of colonization in a video of on-the-ground reports.
“Before Palestine had borders it was recognized as a nation, its cultural identity distinct and with deep roots in the land,” Martin observes.
“But the perception of the region has been biased by mainstream media reporting, leading to the view that it is a land of refuge for the Jews constantly living under the threat of genocide from Muslims.
“However, Palestine’s shrinking borders occurred through violence, repression and forced expulsion. It was done intentionally while disparaging the native Arab population.”
Martin traces the history of Zionism from a “fringe ideology to a fervent political movement which promised to make Palestine a vanguard against barbarism.”
“From the divvying up of the region by colonial powers after World War I to the creation of Israel in 1947,” her short video explains “the malevolent history through which Palestinians lost control of their land.”
She recounts “the horrors of the 1948 war which created hundreds and thousands of Palestinians who have yet to be granted the right to return.” She recalls “the horrors of the Six-Day War in 1967 when almost 40,000 Palestinians were killed.”
Martin concludes bitterly by citing the role of the U.S. in financing “the repressive settler colonial state.” Its justification? “Security from terrorism.”
That’s a laughable justification for people conquering a land that never belonged to them.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)