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Theft of a Nation

Wall Street Looting and Federal Regulatory Colluding

Gregg Barak

Theft of a Nation presents a powerful criminological examination of Wall Street’s recent financial meltdown and its profound impact on the rest of the country. This provocative book asks why, if the actions of key players on Wall Street and in the government resulted in an economic downturn that harmed millions of Americans and destroyed capital worldwide, no one was held criminally liable for these actions.

Author Gregg Barak provides a basic history of financial regulation and deregulation, as well as a primer on both securities fraud and mass victimization. Using key concepts in victimology and white collar crime, he explores the diverse ways civil and criminal law enforcement responded to the damaging behavior on Wall Street. The book also assesses Wall Street Financial Reform and the Consumer Protection Act of 2010, showing the ways that Americans may still be at risk.

Theft of a Nation is the first comprehensive criminological investigation of the role of Wall Street and the government in the recent financial crisis, asking critical questions about who has been victimized and why.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 226Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-0778-3 • Hardback • August 2012 • $92.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-4422-0779-0 • Paperback • August 2012 • $35.00 • (£23.95)
978-1-4422-0780-6 • eBook • July 2012 • $33.00 • (£22.95)
Gregg Barak is professor of criminal justice and criminology at Eastern Michigan University. He is author or coauthor of several books, including Class, Race, Gender, and Crime: The Social Realities of Justice in America, now in its third edition.
Chapter 3. Unenlightened Self Interest, Unregulated Financial Markets, and Unfettered Victimization: From the Savings and Loan Bailouts to Too Big to Fail
Chapter 4. Theories of White Collar Illegalities and the Crimes of the Powerful: A Reciprocal Approach to the Political Economy of Wall Street Looting and Federal Regulatory Colluding
Chapter 5. Financial Looting, Victimization, and Legal Intervention: On Criminal Prosecution and Civil Law Enforcement
Chapter 6. Consuming Victims and Victimless Identities: On the Social Construction of Victimization and the Re-emergence of Public Victims
Chapter 7. The Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010: A Synopsis of Dodd-Frank and the Re-regulation of Financial Abuse
While many factors contributed to the recent financial crisis and subsequent great recession (e.g., repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, increasingly complex derivatives), Barak (criminal justice, Eastern Michigan Univ.) lays the blame squarely on Wall Street leaders. He asserts their unethical and illegal behavior was aided by the incompetence of regulators and the lack of criminal prosecution of any fraud committed by the largest banks and their managers. Not one senior executive from a major financial institution has yet to be criminally prosecuted, and civil cases were settled without participants admitting guilt. According to Barak, these "finance capitalists who have great wealth, prestige, and access to politicos at the highest level of government were afforded ample opportunities to make, break, and neutralize, if not capture, the laws of regulation." For example, the Troubled Asset Relief Program funneled millions for bonuses to individuals responsible for the crisis and the loss of trillions of dollars by homeowners, municipalities, and pension plans. Barak suggests that recent regulations (e.g., the Dodd-Frank Act) will not improve the financial environment without enforcement. A glossary, extensive footnotes, and an index add to the book's usefulness. Summing Up: Recommended.

Theft of a Nation is about finance capital and institutionalized crime. Barak (criminal justice and criminology, Eastern Michigan University) traces the roots of the 2008 economic crisis to the 1980s, highlighting rising trade deficits, deregulation of the financial sector, and intensifying capital inequality, in the context of Reaganomics and neo-liberalism. He aims to explain how the federal government dismissed Wall Street's crimes and rebuffed its victims. There are seven chapters: law, power, and wealth; Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and Wall Street's financial meltdown; unenlightened self-interest, unregulated financial markets, and unfettered victimization; theories of white-collar illegalities and the crimes of the powerful; financial looting, victimization, and legal intervention; consuming victims and victimless identities; the Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. He points to five reasons why law enforcement is not pursuing Wall Street fraud, and discusses how 2011 saw the lowest number of securities fraud prosecutions in the previous 20 years. He concludes his book with his depiction of a fantasy bailout for the American people. This fascinating and very readable book is for scholars and students as well as those who seek to understand the debacle of 2008.
Book News, Inc.

Barak’s analysis is not restricted to a particular moment or period, nor is its scope limited to a single set of circumstances and dynamics. Rather, Barak offers a history of banking in the U.S., along with its related histories of major financial frauds and lootings.
Critical Criminology

Finally! In Theft of a Nation, Gregg Barak reviews the actions that led to the so-called mortgage crisis on Wall Street in terms of their underlying criminality, not only of the individual economic players but also of the Wall Street system itself. This is a book that applies traditional (and Barak's new) criminological models so we can understand the underlying causes of systemic conduct that would, in any other context, be viewed as simple and blatant criminal conspiracies. I recommend it to all of us who are still trying to understand how our nation not only tolerated but also eventually rewarded the actors and the system—the thieves—that stole our nation's economic security.
Hon. Donald Shelton, Chief Judge, Washtenaw Trial Court, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Theft of a Nation offers a rich history of regulation in the U.S.: the forces that promoted it; the forces that sought (and still seek) to undo it; the consequences of deregulation. Timely and insightful, Theft of a Nation will generate research for years to come.
Gray Cavender, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation

This is an intelligent and disturbing analysis of how Wall Street interests and governmental policies have, time and again, colluded in the fleecing of America. It is nothing short of a tour de force in the areas of white-collar crime and victimology.
A. Javier Treviño, Wheaton College

A provocative review and assessment of the most recent Wall Street debacle, Barak shines a critical light on the historical context, social organization, and social construction of fraud, with special attention given to the failures and inadequacies of the existing regulatory framework. Richly drawn, this book is required reading for anyone who wants to dig deeper into what sustains control frauds in the U.S. and why, after wall street bail-outs and a deep global recession, so little has changed.
Sally S. Simpson, University of Maryland

Despite official proclamations to the contrary, elite white-collar and corporate offending continue to go unrecognized and unpunished. These acts carry tremendous social costs that overshadow those associated with common crime. The latest financial meltdown is a case in point. Using precise historical analysis, thorough case studies, and the best criminological tools available, Barak brilliantly exposes exactly how and why the American public was victimized as a result of deregulatory policies that were designed to benefit large private firms, and why no major criminal cases were brought in the wake of the largest financial crisis in world history. The book moves easily from theoretical explanations to corresponding major policy implications regarding necessary financial regulatory reform, including a critical analysis of Dodd-Frank. Barak's well-founded conclusions present a formidable challenge to those economists and policy makers who continue to believe that free markets are self-regulating and that fraud plays no significant role in financial debacles. An extremely well-written piece of major scholarship, it will undoubtedly appeal not only to academics and students, but to the lay public as well. It needs to be on the desk of every legislator considering financial reform. Theft of a Nation clearly stands out among all books to date on the 2008 financial crisis.
Henry N. Pontell, University of California Irvine; coauthor of Profit Without Honor: White-Collar Crime and the Looting of America

Theft of a Nation demonstrates the great truths that both major political parties do not want the public to understand. We suffer recurrent, intensifying financial crises because of elite frauds led from the ‘C’ suites of our most prestigious financial institutions. Those frauds are financial super predators that drove the Great Recession. They are mass destroyers of wealth. Theft of a Nation explains why and how our financial system has been made so inviting to these frauds and the human cost of their crimes. It also offers suggestions on how to avoid these disasters. It is up to each of us to learn how these frauds operate and join the fight against them because big finance is the leading source of political contributions for both parties. Readers of Theft of a Nation will discover that while learning about the crisis is sure to enrage anyone with a functional moral compass it can also be done through ‘a good read.’
William K. Black, University of Missouri – Kansas City; author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One

  • The first comprehensive criminological investigation of the 2007-08 financial crisis on Wall Street

  • Examines the collapse of the financial system through the lenses of white collar crime and criminal theories

  • Compares the responses of administrative, civil, and criminal law enforcement to the vast economic victimization resulting from the financial crisis

  • Distinguishes between corporate fraud and financial fraud, in particular what the author terms “crimes of capitalist control”

  • Includes helpful background information on financial regulation, white collar crime, and victimology

• Winner, National White Collar Crime Center, Outstanding Book Award (2012)