By Kevin G. Hall
WASHINGTON More than a year into the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression, millions of Americans have seen their home values and retirement savings plunge and their jobs evaporate.
What they haven't seen are any Wall Street tycoons forced to swap their multi-million dollar jobs and custom-made suits for dishwashing and prison stripes.
There are plenty of civil and class-action lawsuits from aggrieved investors angered by the losses in their mortgage bonds, hedge funds or pensions. Regulators have stepped up their vigilance after the fact. But to date, no captain of finance tied to the crisis has walked the plank.
There have been some high-profile arrests and federal convictions of financial giants such as Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff and Stanford Financial Group chairman Robert Allen Stanford. They weren't among the causes of the financial meltdown, however, just poster boys for an era of lax enforcement, weak regulation and devout faith in free markets.
"A lot of people who are responsible (for the crisis) seem to have gotten awfully rich in the process," said Barbara Roper, the director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America.
The absence of what many would call justice stands out all the more because past financial crises always had their villains. The depression-era had electricity and railroad magnate Samuel Insull, who partly inspired the movie "Citizen Kane." The savings and loan crisis of the 1980's had banker Charles Keating. Energy giant Enron Corp.'s spectacular collapse offered the late CEO Kenneth Lay, a Texas crony of President George W. Bush.
Yet there's no such poster child for the Great Recession, as today's crisis is now called.