The Untouchables: No Justice On Wall Street
by Bob Schwartz
This week, PBS Frontline aired a follow-up to its powerful documentary Money, Power & Wall Street, which covered the origins and aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown. The Untouchables is an equally scathing and disturbing story about the failure of the Justice Department to prosecute any Wall Street executives for fraud, in the wake of their apparently knowing securitization and sale of worthless mortgages.
For those who wonder whether investigative journalism still matters, this happened yesterday:
Lanny Breuer, the head of the DOJ Criminal Division featured in the documentary, resigned. Questions about why criminal prosecutions have taken so long—and whether there will ever be any—linger like a bad odor.
Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor, was nominated to be the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Richard Cordray, another former prosecutor, was renominated to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The president said these nominations would help prevent a financial crash like the one he inherited four years ago.
People say that the new movie Zero Dark Thirty serves as a thought-provoking wake-up call about the role of torture and, ultimately, the effectiveness and judgment of President Obama. It has been said that those who support the president might find the film unnerving.
The Untouchables is much more unnerving, not just in looking at the president, but in looking at Attorney General Holder, at overseers, and at all the others who seem to be strangely—or not so strangely—beholden to Wall Street.
Watch The Untouchables, then go back and watch Money, Power & Wall Street. Like all great investigative journalism, it is darkly entertaining, and like all unvarnished views of how government works, it is profoundly discouraging. But necessary.