Pulitzer Prize-winning financial columnist Gretchen Morgenson criticized the Justice Department’s $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase in an interview with Bill Moyers released Friday, arguing that it is far from an example of a government crackdown on financial industry malfeasance.
“If the Justice Department were being tough on Wall Street, they would be bringing criminal cases,” Morgenson said on Moyers & Company. “They would not be talking about settlements. They would be talking about bringing criminal cases against individuals who helped to perpetrate this immense crisis. So to say that $13 billion is finally the Justice Department’s getting religion, I’m just not a buyer of that.”
Morgenson, who won the 2002 Pulitzer for Beat Reporting for her coverage of the financial industry for the New York Times, also said she was at a loss to understand U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s September 2013 “private summit” with JPMorgan head Jamie Dimon, considering the “optics” of such a meeting taking place in the course of the company’s negotiations with the government.
“I think it really sends a signal also which is disturbing that, you know, again: two sets of rules in America,” Morgenson told Moyers. “there’s one set for the people who are in positions of power, certainly in the financial world one set of rules perhaps for them, one set for the rest of us.”
The prospect for meaningful changes to the way companies like JPMorgan do business, she argued, will not increase until shareholders demand more accountability from their leaders.
“Until you have people inside these organizations standing up and saying, ‘You know, I would rather be in a business that provides constructive finance for people rather than saying, ‘Ooh, look at the profits in this kind of, you know, creepy thing that we could construct and sell to people without them knowing it,’” she told Moyers. “Until you have people on the inside who take that issue and say, ‘I want to be in the business of helping people, not hurting them,’ how is it going to change?”
Watch Morgenson’s interview with Moyers, as aired on Moyers & Company, below.