Fifty Thousand Petitioners Tell Justice Dept.: Focus on Prosecuting Bankers

In less than 36 hours, a petition by Rebuild the Dream calling on the Department of Justice to focus on prosecuting crimes done by Wall Street executives during the financial crisis has collected more than 50,000 signatures.

“Tell the DOJ: Done with Edwards? Investigate Wall Street,” the petition was headlined. That was in the wake of the Department of Justice’s failed effort to get a guilty verdict against former presidential candidate John Edwards on charges that he illicitly used campaign funds to cover up an affair.

The campaign picks up a drumbeat we started earlier this year with our own call to the Obama administration to use its mortgage fraud task force to investigate and bring cases against Wall Street executives whose illegal actions caused the financial crisis. We will be continuing this push at the Take Back the American Dream conference June 18-20, where we will have a plenary session on “Taking on Wall Street.”

It’s not clear from news reports how much taxpayer money the Department of Justice spent trying to get Edwards thrown in jail for getting a supporter to put up money to keep his affair quiet.

What is clear is that the money and time would have been far better spent building a case against people like former Bank of America chief executive Kenneth J. Lewis.

Lewis, we learned today in The New York Times, is alleged to have passed on misleading information with the federal government and to Bank of America shareholders about potential losses the bank would incur by buying Merrill Lynch in December 2008. The losses “would prompt a second taxpayer bailout of $20 billion,” on top of $25 billion the bank and Merrill had received from the government in 2008 as the two were merging.

A filing in a stockholder lawsuit against Bank of America includes “sworn testimony from Mr. Lewis in which he concedes that before Bank of America stockholders voted to approve the deal he had received loss estimates relating to the Merrill deal that were far greater than reflected in the figures that had appeared in the proxy documents filed with regulators,” the Times reported.

If lying about sex gets you a Justice Department indictment in which the penalty could be up to 30 years in prison, shouldn’t Kenneth Lewis be facing an indictment for false information filed with federal regulators that resulted in taxpayers and investors to lose billions of dollars?

Rebuild the Dream says that with the 50,000 signatures, it will publish the petition in a Washington-area political newspaper to get the attention of Justice Department officials.