matt taibbi

matt taibbi


intro’d to Matt here via upworthy:

not appropriate for prison (even though stole billions) – this point where i realized we’ve determined kinds of people that go to jail and kinds of people that don’t

this is not a bug in the system.. it’s a feature of the system

matt on huffpo



quote from matts book
















are we at that moment.. where we don’t see the injustice

24 min  – if they’re too big to prosecute, they’re too big to exist

right now it’s just too easy to put poor people in jail


matt on demo now




this is not rare.. it’s happening everywhere…


matt on 800


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find many links to democracy now interviews on Matt’s wikipedia page:

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book links to amazon


divide on kindle


Poverty goes up; Crime goes down; Prison population doubles.

over last 20 yrs

Everyone understood this hypocrisy implicitly, almost at a cellular level, far beneath thought. For a Russian in Soviet times, navigating every moment of citizenship involved countless silent calculations of this type. But the instant people were permitted to think about all this and question the unwritten rules out loud, it was like the whole country woke up from a dream, and the system fell apart in a matter of months. That happened before my eyes in 1990 and 1991, and I never forgot it

walk up to – legal to think for self – talk to self – but now with mechanism in place… the exponentiation of a quiet revolution..

Bizarrely, for instance, we’ve become numb to the idea that rights aren’t absolute but are enjoyed on a kind of sliding scale

none of us are free if one of us is chained ness

Unquestionably, however, something else is at work, something that cuts deeper into the American psyche. We have a profound hatred of the weak and the poor, and a corresponding groveling terror before the rich and successful, and we’re building a bureaucracy to match those feelings.

i know you ness

for most of the poor people who are being sent away, whether it’s for a day or for ten years, their prison lives begin when they’re jailed for the most minor offenses imaginable. Can you imagine spending a night in jail for possessing a pink Hi-Liter marker? For rolling a tobacco cigarette? How about for going to the corner store to buy ketchup without bringing an ID?

We still have real jury trials, honest judges, and free elections, all the superficial characteristics of a functional, free democracy. But underneath that surface is a florid and malevolent bureaucracy that mostly (not absolutely, but mostly) keeps the rich and the poor separate through thousands of tiny, scarcely visible inequities.

This is a story that doesn’t need to be argued. You just need to see it, and it speaks for itself. Only we’ve arranged things so that the problem is basically invisible to most people, unless you go looking for it.

To say that the rich go free while the poor go to jail turns out to be a gross oversimplification. It’s far more complicated than that, and in a way more horrible. We’re creating a dystopia, where the mania of the state isn’t secrecy or censorship but unfairness. Obsessed with success and wealth and despising failure and poverty, our society is systematically dividing the population into winners and losers, using institutions like the courts to speed the process. Winners get rich and get off. Losers go broke and go to jail. It isn’t just that some clever crook on Wall Street can steal a billion dollars and never see the inside of a courtroom; it’s that, plus the fact that some black teenager a few miles away can go to jail just for standing on a street corner, that makes the whole picture complete.

none of us if one of us

The cleaving of the country into two completely different states—one a small archipelago of hyperacquisitive untouchables, the other a vast ghetto of expendables with only theoretical rights—has been in the works a long time.

No 28,000 jobs lost were ever mourned as much as the 28,000 jobs lost in the Andersen case. Thereafter, the government began to think differently about prosecuting big companies. No matter how big the crime, the new thing was to think about the possible endgame first. And the worst possible endgame became the starting point for all future “to charge or not to charge” discussions. “From that point forward,” says Eliot Spitzer, “every time one of these things came up, someone always brought up Arthur Andersen

2005 ish?

Having gone after two of the world’s biggest accounting firms, both of which were clearly guilty of major systemic infractions, the Justice Department ended up completely overturned in one case and partially overturned and torn a new one by an angry judge in another.

He told the reporter that his memo had been misinterpreted, that it had never been intended to force companies to waive privilege, that it had been intended only as a positive thing—you know, if a company waived, that was something you could consider as a plus. Being on the business end of those policies now, defending such companies, he saw how tough they could be. “Today, it’s maddening,” he complained. “You’ll go into a prosecutor’s office … and fifteen minutes into our first meeting they say, ‘Are you going to waive?’ ” Holder, in other words, had gone from helping the State Department secure cooperation from corporate defendants using the white-collar equivalent of thumbscrews all the way to the other side of the argument as a highly paid corporate flack, whining that his own ideas were unsustainable intrusions upon commercial privacy. Such flip-flops are so common among this type of lawyer that most finance-sector observers scarcely even raise an eyebrow at them

yet – we’re ok – and even encourage a raised eyebrow – to 5 yr olds even – who seem to want to follow their whimsy.. – and perhaps that’s part of – the beginning of – the prison sentence.. no?

The only problem was that the Justice officials who were employing this new doctrine, like a lot of overeducated people, were all just narrow-minded enough and just lacking enough in self-awareness to not quite see the consequences of the new math they were employing. They thought they were employing an economy-saving doctrine of situational leniency, but they somehow failed to understand that by coming up with a calculus to determine who was big enough and important enough to command jurisprudential mercy, they were simultaneously making a calculation about who was small enough and unimportant enough not to qualify

A book by Ron Suskind called Confidence Men, published two years into Obama’s presidency, quoted then–treasury secretary Tim Geithner as saying that exposing the fraud would create financial panics. “The confidence in the system is so fragile still,” he reportedly said. “… A disclosure of a fraud … could result in a run, just like Lehman.

All told, in just the three years since Vera Sung stumbled into Ken Yu’s real estate closing, Chase—again, a Covington & Burling client—had paid out more than $16 billion in regulatory settlements. The $16 billion represented an incredible 12 percent of its net revenue during that time period. This was before a $13 billion settlement in the fall of 2013, a deal that ate up about half of the bank’s net for that year. Yet throughout all this time, neither the bank nor any of its high-ranking employees were ever once criminally indicted. No Chase employee in any of those cases ever felt handcuffs on his wrists. In fact, Chase was not even forced to admit wrongdoing in most of these settlements. This seemed to be Collateral Consequences in action, but no one could say for sure.

if Eric Holder’s voice wasn’t the direct inspiration, the spirit of Collateral Consequences certainly moved Cyrus Vance, who sent subpoenas to many Wall Street firms but chose to indict only a small, globally nonconsequential Chinatown bank. Abacus isn’t just the only bank in the entire country to face indictment since the financial crisis. It’s also the first company that we know of that was officially deemed small enough to destroy. Too-big-to-fail, meet small-enough-to-jail.

It may have been unknown to the Ivy Leaguers like Holder and Tim Geithner who were crafting the new policy, or maybe they simply didn’t care, but the Collateral Consequences idea had been dreamed up at a time when local police departments all over the country were instituting new statistics-based street policing strategies that functioned according to logic that was exactly opposite that of the Holder memo. These were programs like the infamous CompStat system and other lesser-known outgrowths of the celebrated “broken windows” urban policing strategies, programs whose effectiveness depended upon massive numbers of low-level arrests for minor violations

no police anywhere were officially asked to weigh the collateral consequences of arrests for prostitution, stealing cars, assault, selling weed, jumping turnstiles, even the simple offense of being homeless. There’s no memo in the Justice Department that wonders aloud what happens to the families of those sorts of arrestees. Instead, the new trend in policing is and has been to aggressively no longer care about any of it

The architects of Collateral Consequences seemingly didn’t realize they were starting a revolution. They were accelerating a government-sponsored sorting of the entire population into arrestable and nonarrestable classes

He still couldn’t believe they were writing him up. Even as a corrupt way to make money, it made no sense. Tory didn’t have any money. If anything, they were losing on the deal—they’d end up having to feed him in jail. Plus, all the paperwork, and he knew how police hated paperwork. The street math of it didn’t work out

homeless. arrest for sleeping on a park bench

In 2011, the year before Tory got arrested, another year when exactly nobody on Wall Street was arrested for crimes connected to the financial crisis, New York City police stopped and searched a record 684,724 people. Out of those, 88 percent were black or Hispanic. The ostensible justification for the program is looking for guns, but they find guns in less than 0.02 percent of stops. More often, they make people empty their pockets and find nothing at all. Or sometimes, like in Tory’s case, you get your pockets emptied and suddenly you’re standing there on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Twenty-First Street with half a joint sitting in your open hand. Now that’s not “private use” anymore. Now you’re “knowingly or unlawfully possessing

The bank admitted to laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, washing money for terrorist-connected organizations in the Middle East, allowing rogue states under formal sanctions by the U.S. government to move money freely by the tens of billions through its American subsidiary, letting Russian mobsters wash money on a grand scale using a see-no-evil traveler’s checks program, and helping tax cheats and other crooks from Miami to Los Angeles to Peru hide hundreds of millions of dollars in nearly anonymous “bearer share” accounts. Essentially, HSBC, as perhaps the biggest and most accessible “reputable” bank in Asia, Africa, Central America, and the Middle East, had enthusiastically opened its vaults, including its American vaults, for most every kind of antisocial and/or criminal organization on the planet, allowing mass murderers, human traffickers, and embezzlers unfettered access to the safety and comfort of U.S. dollars

In terms of jail time, anyway, the penalty was nothing. No individual would be charged with anything or have to pay a dollar in fines. No person in any of HSBC’s banks anywhere in the world had to have so much as a ticket on his record. The only penalty was a settlement. It was a big fine: $1.9 billion, at the time the biggest such fine in history—which sounds impressive until you realize the sum equaled about five weeks of revenue for a bank that earned somewhere north of $22 billion a year. Oh, and HSBC had to partially—not fully but partially—defer some of its bonus payments to top executives. And it had to apologize, which it did. “We are profoundly sorry,” said CEO Stuart Gulliver. The cops had let HSBC walk out of the park.

For aiding and abetting drug cartels suspected in more than twenty thousand murders, groups famous for creating the world’s most gruesome torture videos—the Sinaloa Cartel in particular, with its style of high-volume reprisal killings and public chainsawings and disembowelings, makes al-Qaeda look like the Peace Corps—HSBC got a walk. Tory Marone, for smoking their product and passing out on a park bench, got sent to jail

For this incredibly serious crime, which had consequences for nearly every person in the world who has money or buys or sells anything, and which makes the shenanigans at Abacus Federal Savings Bank seem like kindergarteners whispering during naptime, the UBS parent company completely escaped prosecution

The police never did produce the elusive joint, but as time went on, the DA started offering the two men deals. “They’re like, ‘Just plead and pay a twenty-five-dollar fine,’ ” says Michael. “Then it was community service,” says Anthony. “They’re like, ‘Just take two hours of community service.’ Then, when we said no, they were like, ‘Why won’t you take it? It’s just two hours.’ ” Michael and Anthony, like Tory Marone, had been caught up in a new kind of law enforcement technique. The basic principle in both cases is volume arresting. It’s fishing for crime with dynamite. In bad neighborhoods, in immigrant neighborhoods, in parks and alleys, you arrest first, ask questions later.

a dystopia, where common city courts become factories for turning poor people into prisoners, while federal prosecutors on the white-collar beat turn into overpriced garbage men, who behind closed doors quietly dispose of the sins of the rich for a fee.

When Andrew woke up in a hospital bed, he was under arrest, ostensibly for having a gun—the friend’s mother would later testify that police pressured her to say Andrew had hidden a gun in her house, threatening to arrest her and take her kids away. Andrew was acquitted of the charge

“From 1978 to 1988, about three thousand possession arrests a year,” he said. “From 1988 to 1998, about three thousand possession arrests a year. But then, from 1998 to 2008, it jumps to thirty thousand possession arrests per year.

what starts to happen is, the authorities get mission creep. Convictions are so easy, the police eventually stop waiting for the actual crime to be committed

The thing is, I’m on HRA,” he said. That’s what they call welfare in New York—HRA, the city’s Human Resources Agency, provides temporary cash assistance. “I get like three hundred dollars a month. If they fine me, they’re just paying money to themselves. I’m willing to do community service. I’m even willing to sit in jail for fifteen days if it comes to that, you understand? I get it, I rode a bike on a sidewalk, I’m not even disputing that. But I don’t have a hundred dollars.

because the prosecutor had declared himself “ready” two days after trial, the court only “charged” the state two days toward the ninety. A month or so later the whole scenario could be repeated. In this fashion a case that is supposed to go to trial within ninety days can take a year, a year and a half, two years to be heard. For someone out on bail, like Josh’s client, this is merely incredibly stressful and a major inconvenience. But for someone in jail awaiting trial, it’s a preposterously excessive punishment. It’s especially harsh since most misdemeanor cases don’t even threaten the defendant with that much jail time even in the case of conviction.

Big banks get caught committing crimes, at worst they pay a big fine. Instead of going to jail, a check gets written, and it comes out of the pockets of shareholders, not the individuals responsible. Here it’s the same thing. Police make bad arrests, a settlement comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket, but the officer himself never even hears about it. He doesn’t have to pay a dime. And life goes on as before. Thus if you’re a Tyquan Brehon or Andrew Brown, your sole option is to sue and squeeze some money out of the city. You can’t secure an officer’s dismissal, can’t get a policy change, and can’t get anyone brought up on charges. “All they can do is get you a little money,” says Andrew. “But I don’t want money. I want to stop getting arrested.

Today every local official with a badge—every cop, sheriff, ranger, or even game warden—has the power to instantly separate children from mothers, husbands from wives. All America, from the smallest town on up, has become a dragnet

The government’s rationale here is beautiful in its simplicity. American criminals have constitutional rights not because they are natural-born Americans but precisely because they are criminals. Deportations, however, are not part of the criminal justice system. “Removal proceedings,” wrote the circuit judge in the Gutierrez-Berdin case, “are civil, not criminal, and the exclusionary rule does not generally apply to them.” So the undocumented alien who kills a room full of Rotarians with an ax has a right to counsel, a phone call, and protection against improper searches. The alien caught crossing the street on his way to work has no rights at all

This waiver of rights was used to deport 160,000 people between 2000 and 2010. Its use exploded after Obama’s election, moving from fewer than 5,000 orders a year in 2004 to more than 40,000 in 2008

“Obama has broken all the deportation records,” says Nieblas. “One million people in just a few years. Incredible.

For a country founded on the idea that rights are inalienable and inherent from birth, we’ve developed a high tolerance for conditional rights and conditional citizenship. And the one condition, it turns out, is money

One last reason immigrants are great business: as any good defense lawyer knows, the cost of freedom is always everything you have. To put it another way, people who have no documents and no rights are desperate, and desperation is a great natural p

This is where the drive for money and conquest is so intense that it crosses over into a kind of hatred and bloodlust, where the payoff stops being about money at all and becomes a search for something more desperate and seminal. In just one year, 2011, the county conducted an astonishing 26,000 home searches. P100 generates, by the thousand, stories that sound like testimonials culled from refugees of some distant, low-rent, third-world despotate. The stories are terrible, humiliating, abusive

In fact, courts have been slowly chipping away at the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures for a long time, and the dominant theme in this gradual legal erosion has been an innovative new form of institutional racism, and a creepy inverse correlation between rights and need. Over and over again, we hear that if you owe money in a certain way, or if you receive a certain kind of public assistance, you forfeit this or that line item in the Bill of Rights. If you’re a person of means, you get full service for all ten amendments, and even a few that aren’t listed. But if you owe, if you rent, you get a slightly thinner, more tubercular version of the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and so on

Twenty-six billion dollars of fraud: no felony cases. But when the stakes are in the hundreds of dollars, we kick in 26,000 doors a year, in just one county

this mechanism hates some people more than others. In particular, it hates black people. Again, this is not so much about skin color as it is about culture. There’s a cultural spectrum these bureaucracies are attuned to that roughly ranges from black poverty to white wealth. Where you are on that spectrum determines how much of a citizen you get to be

The entire world becomes a legal minefield. If you’re poor and on public assistance, just about anything you do that defines you as a living human being can turn into the basis of a fraud case. Getting laid can be fraud. Getting sick can be fraud. Putting your kids in day care can be fraud. Not “sounding poor” can be fraud. Well, so what? If you don’t want to be charged with fraud, just don’t lie, then. Right? That would be true if our legal system made any sense. But our legal system does not make sense. Our legal system is insane

In Riverside, California, you get a hundred bucks and a thank-you for bringing a fraud case to light. When you scratch the same civic itch at JPMorgan Chase, you lose everything you own and end up living the life of a financial fugitive. Linda and her kids, when I met them, seemed like a family on the run. Her experience was an early precursor to the Edward Snowden story, and I was meeting her in the Sheremetyevo airport stage of her odyssey.

Almonte had arrived at Chase in the first place only by means of a government-approved scheme to conceal toxic assets from the public. The company’s state-sanctioned job was to hide fraud from the public. So when she found more fraud at Chase, where was she supposed to go? To the same government that used Chase to cover up two earlier scandals?

the robo-signers checked none of these figures. They simply signed their names one after the other. Then, once they were finished, they would stick the stacks of documents back into the same drawer, where they would be retrieved (maybe that day, maybe later) by a notary, who would stamp the affidavits. The notaries, according to Linda, were almost never in the room when the documents were signed.

Linda was now being asked to put her own signature on a document that said that Chase was selling $200 million in valid judgments, when she believed that this wasn’t remotely close to being true

“There are people out there who never even knew they were served and taken to court,” says Linda. “Then five years later they go to sell their house, and they find they can’t do it because of a missed payment at Circuit City years ago.

Plenty of people—consumers and merchants both—are probably glad that so much credit is available, but they don’t realize that systematic fraud is part of what makes it available

When the state brings a fraud case against a welfare mom, it brings it with disgust, with rage, because in addition to committing the legal crime, she’s committed the political crime of being needy and an eyesore. Banks commit the legal crime of fraud wholesale; they do so out in the open, have entire departments committed to it, and have employees who’ve spent years literally doing nothing but commit, over and over again, the same legal crime that some welfare mothers go to jail for doing once. But they’re not charged, because there’s no political crime. The system is not disgusted by the organized, mechanized search for profit. It’s more like it’s impressed by it.

The problem is, if the law is applied unequally enough over a long enough period of time, at some point, law enforcement becomes politically illegitimate.

The total amount of money reportedly laundered in his case was somewhere in the area of $16 million. HSBC admitted to laundering more than $800 million. Trevino laundered for the Zetas; HSBC, for their rivals, the Sinaloa cartel. Trevino could get twenty years. At HSBC, again, nobody got even one day.

If you choose to take the money over and over again from the Wall Street crowd while the welfare moms keep getting jail and community service, now suddenly you’ve institutionalized the imbalance


sept 2014:

This will blow. Your. Mind. “@Ian_Fraser: secret tapes reveal extent US regulators “captured” by Wall Street

Original Tweet:


nov 2014:

Matt Taibbi and Bank Whistleblower on How JPMorgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy, Avoid Prosecution

Meet the JPMorgan Chase whistleblower who explains how the bank helped to wreck the economy — and then got away with it.

“It’s a crazy thing when the leading law enforcement official of the nation comes out and says that some companies are just so big that we can’t prosecute them no matter what they do,” says journalist Matt Taibbi, who featured Alayne Fleischmann in his latest Rolling Stone article.

“This become the unofficial official policy of the Justice Department. And this greatly affected how they dealt with companies like JPMorgan Chase, CitiGroup, and Bank of America.”

from video interview:

22 min – you couldn’t get access to info.. (elizabeth holmes ness) – and 2006 – instigated a no email policy.. when email was one of the ways you could speak out and even it if got shelved.. there was a trail

48 min – how can you be a ceo over a company with 29 billion worth of fines.. how can you get a raise

50 min – the idea that these are too complex to figure out what.. is not true

54 min – unless a lot of people start coming forward…

55 min – the problem is the political wing of the justice department

Matt’s rolling stone piece:

 Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking

Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she’s kept her mouth shut since then. “My closest family and friends don’t know what I’ve been living with,” she says. “Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview.”

“I could be sued into bankruptcy,” she says. “I could lose my license to practice law. I could lose everything. But if we don’t start speaking up, then this really is all we’re going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history.”

“This become the unofficial official policy of the Justice Department. And this greatly affected how they dealt with companies like JPMorgan Chase, CitiGroup, and Bank of America.”

“I am resolved to seeing [the investigations] through.” Doing so, he added, would “reaffirm” his principles.

Or, as Fleischmann translates it: “I will personally stay on to make sure that no one can undo the cover-up that I’ve accomplished.”

That’s when she decided to break her silence. “I tried to go on with the things I was doing, but I just stopped sleeping and couldn’t eat,” she says. “It felt like I was trying to keep this secret and my body was literally rejecting it.”



Matt now back with rolling stone.


dec 2014:

The crooked math that’s going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren’t changed

When that perception sinks in, it’s not just going to be one Eric Garner deciding that listening to police orders “ends today.” It’s going to be everyone. And man, what a mess that’s going to be.


nypd work stoppage is surreal


dec 2014

Finally finished reading the Torture Report. The footnotes are key. Man, are we a disturbed bunch of people...


jan 2015

The Hebdo attacks thrust the Western media into a crisis of confidence. It mostly failed the test

The answer here isn’t more self-censorship, but standing on the principle of everyone learning to calm down, get a life, and tolerate the occasional weird idea. This is particularly true when the only places these ideas are “displayed” are on Internet servers, where you have to go looking for them to find them. We’re really going to run even from that? Since when do we give in to bullies so easily?

perhaps a world where everyone (100% of us) has the luxury of something else to do. we can do that now.


civil forfeiture


evolution of a criminal – Darius Clark Monroe

cure violence



money ness




Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) tweeted at 10:05 AM – 30 Dec 2016 :

Something about this Russia story stinks. Read Matt Taibbi’s latest


Democracy Now! (@democracynow) tweeted at 7:04 AM – 17 Jan 2017 :

.@mtaibbi, streaming at “I wouldn’t hold my breath” for Trump to investigate Russia hacking allegations (


Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) tweeted at 5:12 AM – 9 Mar 2017 :

For those who missed it, read @mtaibbi’s article on the unhinged, irrational tactics driving the Russia/Trump story (


Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) tweeted at 5:06 AM – 31 May 2019 :
What you’re missing is crimes by the state – including severe crimes of violence – are often themselves secret. If telling the public about these problems becomes criminal, one of the last checks on corruption vanishes. (