Ben Bernanke says Wall Street executives should have gone to jail

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says some Wall Street executives should have been jailed for their roles in the financial crisis that gripped the country in 2008 and triggered the great recession.

Billions of dollars in fines have been levied against major banks and brokerage firms as a result of the economic meltdown that was in large part triggered by reckless lending and shady securities dealings that blew up a housing bubble.

But in an interview with USA Today published on Sunday, Bernanke said in addition to the corporations, individuals should have been held accountable. “It would have been my preference to have more investigations of individual actions because obviously everything that went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm,” he said.

Asked if someone should have gone to jail, the former Fed chairman replied, “Yeah, I think so.” He did not, however, name any individual he thought should have been prosecuted and noted that the Federal Reserve was not a law-enforcement agency.

Bernanke is promoting his 600-page book, The Courage to Act: a Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath, which is scheduled to be published on Monday. He began the book after leaving the Fed in 2014.

The memoir details his take on the crisis in which the government took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and provided hundreds of billions in aid to the biggest US financial institutions.

He writes that the taxpayer-provided bailouts of banks and Wall Street firms were unpopular, but says they were necessary to avoid an economic catastrophe. “I certainly was not eager to bail out Wall Street, and I had no reason to want to bailout Wall Street itself,” he told USA Today. “But we did it because we knew that if the financial system collapsed, the economy would immediately follow.”


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