Last night, I read this powerful article by Jessica Silver-Greenberg in the New York Times and, not for the first time, considered how great the A.C.L.U. is. And also, not for the first time, understood that the general impatience and rage over the economic disaster that big banks brought down upon us small creatures’ heads is not entirely comprehended.
I know most of us 99 percenters feel helpless to do anything about this personally — except to vote for representatives who offer compassion and strong legislation that will help, we hope, to prevent big banks from crashing our world in again, at least for a while. (I’m not going to mention the GOP control over the House of Representatives because it’s the job of all voters to get those people out of Washington.)
And I also know that millions of people feel that the Justice Department has not acted forcefully or quickly to pursue meaningful action against bankers.
But I do understand that no prosecutor at any level can indict an individual or an entity without accumulating pertinent and persuasive evidence. And to gather this evidence against monstrously huge international corporations is a multi-year project that may not provide real, hard, actual evidence that a jury of us citizens will be able to apply to a verdict. And it may not come in time to gratify or attach itself to our visceral need for immediately legal vengeance.
Government can’t act quickly and, even when it does act, government can’t necessarily effectively address the misery of us plain old people, a lot of whom have been lost in the mortgage shuffle and scam.
There’s this problem called “jurisdiction.” Another problem is called “causes of action.” The biggest problem, though, is “the law.” Given the legislated removal of effective bank regulations and oversight, it may be (and I don’t know because this is way too complicated for me) that there is no crime, no civil action available in federal law to take against big banks.
That’s why we should revere the American Civil Liberties Union, and other non-profit, pro bono publico organizations. Because what the A.C.L.U. can do is chop down jurisdiction and legal causes of action into manageable, comprehensible parts, and then apply them. So read this article and see that the A.C.L.U.
is accusing Morgan Stanley of fueling the production of risky expensive loans that targeted African-American borrowers.
In the lawsuit, expected to be filed on Monday, the A.C.L.U. claims that Morgan Stanley is culpable for predatory loans made through the New Century Financial Corporation because the investment bank lent billions of dollars to New Century, a now-defunct subprime lender, and pressured it to make troublesome loans to African-American borrowers who could not afford them.
A large part of the wonderfulness of this A.C.L.U. action is that we all can grasp it. It speaks clearly to us average citizens — even those of us who can’t mentally penetrate the complexities of international economics. Each of us can imagine herself as an African-American who was hard-sold a mortgage she couldn’t afford. Hey, it was part of the American Dream, you know? That American Dream we all keep hearing about.