Imagine for a moment that you’ve just bilked someone out of, say, $50,000. That someone files charges against you. The authorities investigate, arrest you, and send the case to court, where a jury finds you guilty of a felony.
What happens next? Jail time? Maybe prison? You’d have to pay the money back, yes? Well, that kind of justice isn’t always the norm when it involves mind-boggling sums of money.
The PBS series “Frontline” tonight examines that issue in “The Untouchables,” which airs at 9 p.m. on KACV-TV.
The special takes a detailed look — as only “Frontline” does — at the banking scandal that erupted in 2008, near the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. The program looks into this fascinating fact: Not a single banking executive caught up in the bank fraud scandals of the time has spent any time behind bars. How can that be?
Little people such as, well, yours truly, would end up in the slammer faster than you can say “Show me the money” if we were caught doing what some bankers had done. And what did they do? Well, they loaned money to individuals who never should have qualified for loans.
According to PBS.org/frontline, here is an example of what transpired:
“Several due diligence underwriters — most speaking publicly for the first time — told FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith that it wasn’t uncommon to see school teachers claiming salaries of $12,000 a month on their mortgage applications, or electricians moving from $500 a month in rent to homes worth $650,000. The only problem — their supervisors didn’t seem to want to hear about it.
“’Fraud in the due diligence world, fraud was the F-word or the F-bomb,’” said Tom Leonard. “You didn’t use that word.”
Maybe they should have dropped the F-bomb. Then again, maybe someone should have gone to jail.
Frontline takes its usual thorough look at what happened — and why.