Press Release

WHY HAVE WALL STREET’S LEADERS ESCAPED PROSECUTION
FOR FRAUD RELATED TO THE SALE OF TOXIC MORTGAGES?

FRONTLINE Presents
The Untouchables
Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at 10 P.M. on PBS
www.pbs.org/frontline/untouchables

www.facebook.com/frontline
Twitter: @frontlinepbs #frontline

More than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Are Wall Street executives “too big to jail”?

In The Untouchables, premiering Jan. 22, 2013, at 10 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE producer and correspondent Martin Smith investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors, loans that brought the U.S. and world economies to the brink of collapse.

Through interviews with top prosecutors, government officials and industry whistleblowers, FRONTLINE reports allegations that Wall Street bankers ignored pervasive fraud when buying pools of mortgage loans. Tom Leonard, a supervisor who examined the quality of loans for major investment banks like Bear Stearns, said bankers instructed him to disregard clear evidence of fraud. “Fraud was the F-word, or the F-bomb. You didn’t use that word,” says Leonard. “By your terms and my terms, yes, it was fraud. By the [industry's] terms, it was something else.”

Former Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), who was appointed to fill Joe Biden’s long-held Senate seat when he was sworn in as vice president in January 2009, was determined to see bankers in handcuffs. “I was really upset about what went on on Wall Street that brought about the financial crisis,” Kaufman recalls. “That doesn’t happen if there isn’t something bad going on.”

Yet Kaufman left office in late 2010 frustrated by the lack of criminal prosecutions. Jeff Connaughton, Kaufman’s chief of staff, remains convinced that the DOJ failed to make prosecuting Wall Street a top priority. “You’re telling me that not one banker, not one executive on Wall Street, not one player in this entire financial crisis committed provable fraud?” asks Connaughton. “I mean, I just don’t believe that.”

Smith asks Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Criminal Division, about his failure to criminally indict Wall Street executives. “I think there was a level of greed, a level of excessive risk taking in this situation that I find abominable and very upsetting,” says Breuer. “But that is not what makes a criminal case.”

Critics, including two high-level sources within Breuer’s own division and former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, disagree. “They have not done what needed to be done,” Spitzer says. “The greater risk is that corrupt behavior that is damaging to our economy, that leads to something as enormously painful as the cataclysm of ’08, goes unaddressed.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman finally filed a major lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase and Bear Stearns in 2012. It closely mirrors claims first made by private plaintiffs almost two years earlier. Despite strong evidence of fraud, the government again decided not to pursue criminal charges. Meanwhile, banking scandals continue to surface almost weekly.

The Untouchables is written and produced by Martin Smith. Co-producers are Linda Hirsch and Ben Gold. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.

Press contact for FRONTLINE:
Diane Hebert-Farrell, (617) 300-5366, diane_hebert_farrell@wgbh.org

pbs.org/pressroom: Download promotional photography from the PBS Pressroom.

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Losing IraqJuly 29th

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2013 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.