In the middle of 2007, Morgan Stanley paid out $4.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit initiated against it by its own clients. Why were Morgan Stanley’s clients suing it? They alleged that Morgan Stanley took money from them for buying precious metals on their behalf, took money from them for “storage” of these precious metals accounts, but only pretended to purchase the bullion.
Morgan Stanley (reading from the standard Wall Street script) denied the allegations, but settled the case “to avoid the cost and distraction of continued litigation.” Before moving on to Morgan’s Stanley’s latest exploits in the precious metals market, this deserves a few comments.
First of all, if Morgan Stanley did only pretend to purchase bullion on behalf of its clients, while charging them for the “bullion” and storage fees on that imaginary bullion, we have a word for such actions: fraud. So if Morgan Stanley was guilty of swindling its own clients in this manner then why wasn’t it required to acknowledge its guilt?
The answer is simple. Morgan Stanley is based in The Land of Fraud (aka the United States of America). In The Land of Fraud swindling people (whether total strangers or long-term clients) is a way of life – just ask a former Goldman Sachs employee. Thus the Wall Street banksters can commit fraud without ever having to admit fraud.
Indeed, Bloomberg explicitly confirmed that the SEC’s commit-but-never-admit policy has been standard practice for more than four decades, with such settlements then rubber-stamped by the U.S. judiciary. Bloomberg noted this institutionalized corruption when it criticized a (lone) U.S. judge who has had the temerity to challenge the commit-but-never-admit doctrine:
…As part of the agreement, New York-based Citigroup neither admitted nor denied the allegations, a clause which has been standard in such settlements for at least four decades.
But it gets better for the Wall Street fraud factories. Not only can they commit acts of fraud with impunity while never having to admit to them, but the “fine” they receive after being caught in the act is rarely more than 10% of their proceeds of crime – and often much, much less.
A classic example was the travesty of American Justice when Wachovia Bank was caught laundering nearly $400 billion dollars of drug cartel profits. It paid less than $200 million in fines and penalties. This was less than 2% of the bank’s 2009 profits, and less than 0.05% of the drug-money it laundered...
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