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Meet Jed Rakoff, the Judge Who Exposed the “Rigged Game”

Meet Jed Rakoff, the Judge Who Exposed the “Rigged Game”

“We have mass incarceration for the poor, and it’s totally hands-off for the rich, and that’s pretty hard to stomach.” Justice Jed Rakoff on his new book, and his famous challenge to the system

Jed Rakoff

On November 27, 2011, a federal judge named Jed Rakoff threw out a $285 million regulatory settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission, blasting it as “neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest.” The S.E.C. and Citigroup were stunned. Expecting to see their malodorous deal wrapped up, the parties were instead directed “to be ready to try this case” the following summer.

Try a case? Was the judge kidding? A pattern had long ago been established in which mega-companies like Citigroup that were implicated in serious offenses would be let off with slaps on the wrist, by soft-touch regulators who expected judges to play ball. These officials in many cases were private sector hotshots doing temporary tours as regulators, denizens of the revolving door biding time before parachuting back into lucrative corporate defense jobs. A judge who refused to sign the settlements such folks engineered was derailing everyone’s gravy train.

Citigroup had replicated a scheme employed by numerous big banks of the era, helping construct a “born to lose” portfolio of rotten mortgage securities to be unloaded on customer-dupes, who were unaware the bank intended to bet against them. A similar case involving a Goldman, Sachs deal called “Abacus” had concluded the previous year with a hefty fine, but, infamously, no admission of wrongdoing.

In the Citigroup version, the bank earned $160 million in profits, customers lost $700 million, and the S.E.C. wanted to impose a $285 million fine…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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