Wall Street's first post–housing crash criminal charges will have nothing to do with shady mortgages
Federal prosecutors are preparing to file criminal charges against at least two of the world's largest banks, The New York Times reports, tackling the "public outcry over the perception that Wall Street giants are 'too big to jail.'" That perception is due largely to the fact that five years after the global economy collapsed under the weight of shady mortgage and lending practices at the world's biggest banks, no top bank or banker has been charged with a crime.
So who are the feds going after? Switzerland's Credit Suisse and France's BNP Paribas, according to The Times' sources. Now, both banks operate in the U.S., and neither's hands are clean in the housing bust, but that's not what the Justice Department and bank regulators are going after them for. The case against Credit Suisse reportedly hinges on its selling tax shelters to Americans, and BNP is accused of conducting business with U.S.-blacklisted countries like Sudan and Iran. Criminal investigations are underway for U.S. banks, but at a less-advanced stage, The Times reports.
If you were inclined toward cynicism, you might suggest that unlike foreign banks, Wall Street giants tend to donate liberally to U.S. politicians in both parties — and they're potential (high-paying) future employers for government bank regulators. But it's probably more likely in this case that prosecutors will have an easier time making the case that Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas actually broke the law.
What Wall Street banks did to the economy and hundred of thousands of unlucky homebuyers may be "criminal" in the figurative sense — as in, "casting Keanu Reeves in that role is criminal" — but proving that bankers committed actual legal crimes is tricky. There's the law, and this other problem: If banks are convicted of a crime, bank regulators may have to pull their charters, which "amounts to a death sentence for a bank," former U.S. prosecutor Daniel Levy tells The Times. A guilty plea by BNP would be the biggest from a bank since junk-bond pioneer Drexel Burnham Lambert in 1989. Peter Weber
President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and other GOP supporters of the failed American Health Care Act cast the vote as a strict with-us-or-against us scenario: Either support this plan or you're stuck with ObamaCare while the White House "agenda moves on" to other issues. More than 30 House Republicans had other ideas.
As The New York Times details in a breakdown of which GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber opposed the AHCA and why, the proposal came under a diversity of criticism from left and right alike — and that's just within the Republican Party. It's a scenario which leads Paul Kane at The Washington Post to observe the rise of a new paradigm of power in the GOP:
[The AHCA's de facto defeat] suggested a new dynamic in which both the right and left flanks of the Republican conference are emboldened to challenge leadership. And that could make each future negotiation more difficult as the issue matrix gets more complicated and the pockets of internal GOP resistance continue to grow, not shrink, in the new era of Trump’s Republican-controlled Washington. ...
This new combination, with Ryan’s right and left flanks willing to buck him and the new president, presents deep concern for the long-term effort to take up the more complicated effort to overhaul the corporate and individual tax codes. [The Washington Post]
President Trump reiterated on Twitter Saturday his argument that the health-care system set up by the Affordable Care Act will "explode" of its own accord — after which, he added, Republican lawmakers will successfully pass the replacement plan they could not swing without the added pressure of political explosion.
ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2017
Leaders of the 27 European Union nations that will remain in the organization following the United Kingdom's forthcoming exit met Saturday in Rome on the occasion of the 60-year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community, an EU forerunner. "Europe as a political entity will either be united, or will not be at all," said EU President Donald Tusk. "Only a united Europe can be a sovereign Europe."
The conference adopted the Rome Declaration, a brief statement affirming mutual "pride in the achievements of the European Union," including "common institutions and strong values, a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, a major economic power with unparalleled levels of social protection and welfare."
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who did not attend the meeting in Rome, is expected to begin the formal Brexit process Wednesday by triggering Article 50. For more on how that process will work, see this explainer from The Week. Bonnie Kristian
Two men remain in custody Saturday for questioning in connection to the deadly attack at Westminster Bridge in London on Wednesday. The attacker, a 52-year-old English native born Adrian Russell Ajao but known as Khalid Masood, was fatally shot by police at the scene of the crime.
Police are now investigating whether Masood "acted totally alone inspired by terrorist propaganda, or if others have encouraged, supported, or directed him." The two men currently detained were among 11 people arrested so far; of the others, seven have been released without charges and two women have been released on bail.
Londoners meanwhile have deluged the area where the attack occurred with a veritable sea of flowers. "You will always be in our hearts," said a note from London Mayor Sadiq Khan to Masood's victims. "Londoners will never forget the innocent people who lost their lives." Bonnie Kristian
An armed robbery left the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas in chaos around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and police have confirmed three suspects were involved in the break-in attempt at a Rolex jewelry store in the casino complex.
Where the story gets weird is in a photo snapped by an eyewitness and posted on Twitter: The image shows what appears to be one of the robbers wearing a rubber pig mask.
— Kira (@Kir_kamil) March 25, 2017
The Trump administration is ready to move on to addressing tax policy after the downfall of the health-care plan it supported, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday. Trump is "disappointed" by the loss, Spicer conceded, but is now motivated by "a desire to do fundamental tax reform, something we haven't seen since 1986," Spicer told Fox News. "The agenda moves on."
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chair of the House tax committee, affirmed he is prepared "to work with the administration to get this done." The health-care bill failure "made a big challenge more challenging," he said, "but it's not insurmountable."
Spicer also echoed President Trump's suggestion that ObamaCare will now fail of its own accord, leading to a future replacement project. "Democrats will crawl back once the system fails on its own," he said. "The people that stood with Nancy Pelosi today understand the system is going down and the higher costs are on their shoulders, not ours." Bonnie Kristian
After lagging behind Wisconsin for the first half of the game, the Gators pulled ahead for much of the second half. A concerted comeback by the Badgers produced a tied game with just four seconds left on the overtime clock when Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes scored two points. The game seemed finished — until Florida's Chris Chiozza sprinted down the court to make a running 3-pointer just as the buzzer rang out in Madison Square Garden.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 25, 2017