What happens when Wall Street breaks the law? Not much.

A few days before he graduated, one of my students asked me how does one keep up with public affairs (as I was advocating) when you have a demanding full-time job, a cute but fussy baby, an elderly parent who needs attending and something of a social life? I suggested that he listen to NPR, watch CNN — and once in a while choose a particular story to follow. For example, the report of what happens when major American corporations break the law.

The New York Times recently investigated the ways the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) deals with companies who have violated anti-fraud laws. Very often, the settlement that follows contains a promise not to break the law again, which the Times noted is odd because the company, “after all, was merely promising not to do something that the law already forbids.” Often the same corporations violate the law again — and make the same promise again and again.

The Times found 51 cases over the past 15 years in which 19 Wall Street firms broke anti-fraud laws they had promised not to break. These firms include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. When faced with these multiple violations, the SEC simply reaches another settlement and extracts another promise, rather than bring a contempt charge in court.

What is Occupy Wall Street doing about this?

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/30/opinion/etzioni

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