In several respects, Occupy Wall Street reminds me of the feminist movement. Corporate funded media has declared the women’s rights movement dead ad nauseam for four decades — and yet it thrives and reinvents itself. Similarly, corporate funded media has eulogized Occupy Wall Street from almost the moment of its nascent birth in the Fall of 2011.
If there is a common thread connecting these movements and the dire media prognostications of their demise, it is likely that when either one advances, entrenched power — and its iron grip on the wealth of a nation — loses.
Now, similar to the early court battles for women’s rights, Occupy Wall Street has tossed aside its encampments and bullhorns and donned its legal garb and pro hac vices. Occupy Wall Street’s brain trust, Occupy the SEC, just filed a Federal lawsuit that encapsulates the crony capitalist state that passes today for democracy.
The organization is suing every Federal regulator that resides in the pocket of Wall Street – which means they are suing every Federal regulator of Wall Street. And, spunky group that they are, they’re naming individuals too. Here’s the rundown: Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Martin Gruenberg, Chairman of the FDIC, Elisse Walter, Chair of the SEC, Gary Gensler, Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Thomas Curry, Comptroller of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Mary Miller, Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury, Neal Wolin, Acting Secretary of the Treasury.
Occupy the SEC is serving a valiant public service in bringing this lawsuit. It explains to the court that one of the most critical components of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that was supposed to reform Wall Street has yet to be enacted by the regulators and this is in violation of law. The key component is the Volcker Rule, named after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, that would prohibit most forms of trading for the house on Wall Street, known officially as proprietary trading.
The lawsuit informs the court that Dodd-Frank required that regulators adopt rules relating to this section “within nine months after the completion of a study by FSOC [Financial Stabilization Oversight Council] relating to the Volcker Rule. The FSOC completed that study in January 2011.” The complaint proceeds to explain that the legislative language “is unequivocal in setting this mandatory deadline, which the Defendants and the agencies under their control have missed.”
To bring a lawsuit of this nature, plaintiffs who have a legitimate stake in the outcome must be named on the suit. Occupy the SEC has wisely selected two individuals, Eric Taylor and Kristine Ekman, who live in Brooklyn and hold insured deposit accounts with two major Wall Street firms. That’s highly relevant because the Brooklyn residences allow this case to be filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York rather than the Southern District that covers the Wall Street area and lower Manhattan. Wall Street has been getting extremely sweet deals in that District Court for the past two decades, raising concerns as to whether the 99 percent can ever obtain justice there.
The complaint explains to the Court that “this delay puts Plaintiffs’ deposited money at risk, because banks can continue to speculate with it as long as the Volcker Rule has not been implemented.” The recent example of the implosion of insured deposits at JPMorgan Chase is cited:
“For instance, in April of 2012 it was reported that the Chief Investment Office (CIO) at the London office of JPMorgan Chase bank had utilized deposited funds, like those of Plaintiffs, to invest in extremely risky, speculative credit default swap indices (derivatives of derivatives). Further, it has recently been reported that other traders at JPMorgan actually bet against the CIO office, virtually guaranteeing that some division within the bank would suffer losses. The latest estimates reveal that the bank suffered approximately $6 billion in trading losses from the CIO debacle.”
The lawsuit was filed by attorney, Akshat Tewary, who has been active in Occupy the SEC since its inception. (Read the full lawsuit here.)
Proprietary trading is, at its core, benign sounding jargon for an essential cog in Wall Street’s institutionalized wealth transfer mechanism. Wall Street banks take in insured deposits on which they pay a tiny amount of interest, then use those depositor funds to speculate for the house after leveraging up the bets to obscene ratios. Frequently, they use their insider information to make sure the house wins.
If the bets blow up the institution, the taxpayer steps in with bailouts because the institution is deemed too big to fail. If the bets win, the executive suite reward themselves with obscene pay packages and retirement perks. It’s heads they win, tails you lose and it continues unimpeded despite the President’s lofty promises for change. The fact that his administration is not bringing this lawsuit to prevent the delay of the enactment of the Volcker Rule but the job is left to a group of concerned citizens, crystallizes the fact that Wall Street is still running things in Washington. If you need further proof, read our next story on what transpired on the Senate floor yesterday with the confirmation vote for Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew.