U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Friday promised “dramatic enforcement actions” against Wall Street power brokers who helped guide the economy into a slump.
In an interview with CNBC’s Steve Liesman on “Squawk Box,” Geithner was asked about the “bit of chaos on Wall Street” (as Liesman characterized the Occupy Wall Street protest).
Geithner said, “People want to make sure that the government, Washington is acting to make things better now,” and pointed out consumer protections that Congress had picked up, such as the Dodd-Frank Act.
“What we’re focused on is trying to make sure that we are doing everything we can to encourage the Congress of the United States,” Geithner said. “In this case of course it requires Republicans, can’t do this just with Democrats, to get Republicans to take some steps now that can make growth stronger in the United States and tie that to some reforms to bring down our long term deficits.”
Liesman pointed out that some Occupy Wall Street demonstrators had voiced frustration that none of the individuals whose actions contributed to the economic downfall and recession in the U.S. had been charged criminally.
“That’s not true,” Geithner said, but did not give details on any criminal charges that had been filed. “And you’ve seen very, very dramatic enforcement actions already by the enforcement authorities across the U.S. government. And I’m sure you’re gonna see more to come, you should stay tuned for that. But we are taking– we moved very quickly to put in place a much stronger set of rules of the game across the financial sector.”
Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of hedge fund Galleon Group LLC, was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in prison for insider trading, one of the longest sentences for that crime ever delivered.
Last week in a news conference, President Barack Obama said that the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the country “gave voice to a broad-based frustration.”
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street and yet, you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place,” he said.
Some members of Congress, such as Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have long pushed for criminal trials for those involved in the 2008 Wall Street crisis.
“I think there are some investigations — hopefully, they will lead to criminal charges, but what I think the average American is saying is that if a kid smokes marijuana, that kid could end up in jail,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN last month. “These people [on Wall Street], because of their activity, destroyed the economy. Millions of people lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, and now they’re making more than they ever did before.”
The Occupy Wall Street Protest in New York City’s Zuccotti Park is days shy of having gone on for a full month.