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The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,580 ratings  ·  219 reviews
From Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jesse Eisinger, “a fast moving, fly-on-the-wall, disheartening look at the deterioration of the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission…It is a book of superheroes” (San Franscisco Review of Books).

Why were no bankers put in prison after the financial crisis of 2008? Why do CEOs seem to commit wrongdoing with imp
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Simon Schuster
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Start your review of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives
Eisinger explores “Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives” in this book that introduces us to the heyday of criminal prosecutions for white collar crime to its nadir today.
“The Department of Justice is a loose federation of ninety-four offices around the country, each a realm unto itself, run by a U.S. attorney who is almost untouchable by headquarters in faraway Washington, D.C…The [SEC] has civil powers and must team up with various offices of the Department of Justice when
Athan Tolis
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
It’s been said, and I for one tend to agree, that in November 2016 the American public punished the Democrats for not having successfully (or otherwise) prosecuted any senior Wall Street executives during the eight years following the crash 2008. I was hoping that this book was the one that would help me decide if that’s true.

Author Jesse Eisinger, kicks off bombastically, in early 2002, with the appointment of James Comey (yes, the one who went on to star in the Hillary vs. Trump operetta) as t
Nick Slater
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you hate what Wall Street has done to America and you want to understand how it happened (even if your eyes glaze over at the first mention of "securities" or "derivatives"), you will love this book. Eisinger cuts through the financial jargon and bureaucrat-speak to tell a story with rich characters and a narrative that screenwriters for "The Big Short" would envy. Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves a story that's as informative as it is entertaining. ...more
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
very disheartening read.
Kressel Housman
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, law, finance
Another reader compared this book to THE BIG SHORT, and it’s fitting both in style and in content. Both books tell the personal stories of people involved with highly complex financial crimes to help clarify that complexity to the layperson. (To be honest, Michael Lewis did a better job of it.) More importantly, though, this book answers the question that THE BIG SHORT leaves off with; that is, with all this fraud going on, why wasn’t anybody charged? The answer is right in the title. They were ...more
David Dayen
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating narrative that begins with how US law enforcement used to get white collar crime right - not even two decades ago - and how it all fell apart. Unfavorable rulings and extreme timidity have created a special class of citizenship for corporations and their executives, a class that need not fear accountability for criminal misconduct. This is a must read for understanding that transformation, and the deep rot in our system of prosecuting white collar crime.
"Jed Rakoff had started to grasp something awful: the SEC was no longer the agency he once admired. This incompetence would never have happened under Sporkin. It wouldn’t have happened throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He recalled Richard Breeden, the chairman of the SEC under the first George Bush, once declared that he wanted to see corporate executives who violated the securities laws “naked, homeless, and without wheels.”12 Now the agency was scared."

בשנות ה - 80 משרד המשפטים האמריקאי תבע יותר
Dana Stabenow
The junk-bond guys went to jail, the savings and loan guys went to jail, the Enron guys went to jail. But the guys who caused the Great Recession of 2008? Nope. Not a one. It's probably why Trump is in the White House today.

Donald Trump rode anger about Wall Street throughout his campaign, railing at bank power. He closed his campaign by hinting poisonously about a cabal of global bankers rigging the system. He assailed politicians who were "owned" by Goldman Sachs: first Ted Cruz in the primar
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is a really important book, and I learned a ton from it. This book investigates the Justice Department’s unwillingness to prosecute individuals, or even to insist that companies admit wrongdoing, after the days of Enron and Arthur Anderson. This was especially apparent following the financial crisis. Eisinger does a masterful job researching and telling the story.

My only negative comment was that there are tons of people to keep track of and Eisinger does not tell the story totally
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you haven't read the Divide by Matt Taibbi, read that one first. If you read that and loved it, come here for some more detail. It's a great book and it's a total tragedy of justice that more banks weren't prosecuted. ...more
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
I don’t want to dislike The Chickenshit Club. It’s not even obviously bad. All the parts are there, the author is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and there is nothing obviously wrong.

It just does not fit properly.


The Chickenshit Club contends that there has been a trend away from prosecuting individuals or companies due to weak-willed prosecutors, regulatory capture, public sentiment (often from that populist rag The Wall Street Journal) and a corporate friendly judiciary bench. As Eisinger put
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, money
This book really ought to be taught in schools. It can be dry reading, but the portrait of profound corruption that emerges is genuinely shocking. Beginning with the Reagan administration and getting worse with each successive administration (of both parties) since, we've essentially evolved the law in The United States to boil down to the idea that only poor people are responsible for their own actions. Wealthy people can always blame someone else.

Oh, you caught him red handed stealing from his
Scott Siegling
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
I finished reading "The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives" by Jesse Eisinger this evening. I highly recommend the book, it gives the history of fighting corporate malfeasance since the 1970s, with special emphasis on and after Enron/Arthur Andersen. That debacle activated the corporations and their lobbyists, and with horrible Attorney Generals like Ashcroft and Gonzales it was a shoe in, while the appellate courts seemed to be the most corrupt in overtur ...more
Josh Friedlander
If you ask people why so few bankers and executives went to prison after the financial crisis, you're likely to get one of two reactions. Some (the legalists) will tell you that being greedy and reckless is not a crime; the few who did beyond reasonable doubt break the law did pay for it, but for the most part they didn't, and you cannot punish people who have not committed crimes. Others (the moralists) will say that their escaping justice is due only to their money and connections, and that al ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for understanding why the Justice Department and other regulators have been so hopeless when it comes to holding businesses and their executives accountable for misconduct and fraud. Not only does the book carefully examine how their investigative and prosecutorial skills have withered away, but he connects the loss of capacity to a pernicious revolving door and big law clubiness that makes discussion of the public interest nearly verboten.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Great title but full of minutiae only a Federal Prosecutor might care about... after being away from this book on a 3k motorcycle trip I'm not about to pick it up again. ...more
Ethan Groothuis
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Come for the solid journalism, stay for the crushing disappointment in our institutions!" ...more
Sai Rao
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
great but lots of typos
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! It truly is something to read a book and realize that questions you never had are being answered while at the same time revelations upon past streams of thought are being affirmed!

And Eisinger in this book does a good job of both. This book was as much infuriating as it was joyful to read-- as someone who hopes to practice in the field one day. Reading about how Main Justice alongside the Southern District of New York (SDNY) played the game (and what a game it was) with deferred prosecution
What do Countrywide, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, AIG, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley have in common? Not one was indicted for the financial crisis that hit the U.S. in 2008. Why?
This book presents numerous reasons, not all of them palatable. I'm not sure I understood every nuance, but I certainly got the drift that the taxpayers will continue to pay the piper and the lawyers involved.
The book title comes from a comment that James Comey made upon his arrival at
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I've always respected grunt-level prosecutors -- theirs is not always an easy (and at times thankless) job. I've always been wary of banks, corporations, defense attorneys and politicians -- I think a fair number of them are all about the money and/or looking out for #1. After reading this detailed work I'm not sure how average Americans still have faith in some of the systems of our country. As Lee Iacocca wrote in regards to poor decisions by the government "'Stay the course?' This is our coun ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing.

Among other lessons from the book, I take away the following: Trump is just another spoiled man like myriad others from (or strongly akin to those from) the cupboards of our corporate leadership, ever unwilling to be held accountable for anything at all. Scandalous behavior that would be punished anywhere else-in neighborhoods, families, schools—is simply blameless in the eyes of the law when done by titans of the business world, which utterly hamstrings prosecutions. The gy
Colin Scott
Felt like a series of long form pieces but still a good read.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have a personsal rule for selecting books. I do not read books that have profanity in the title. This time I broke the rule because the book sounded both interesting and valuable -- and the title might even be appropriate. It was. This book is about the men who placed their personal desires or greed above health and security of our nation and other nations and about the persons who either tried and failed or did not attempt to prosecute them.

The author contends that we will not reign in large
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: could-not-finish
I wanted to like this book and understand the nuances of criminal justice system as it applies to corporate america and its executives. Unfortunately, the book is impossible to read. It is essentially a stream of consciousness loosely arranged into chapters.

The story would start with a meeting at the DA office, jump to a biography of the defense counsel, then an anecdote about the ADA from her law school days, then to history of corporate raiding in the 80s, and then to the difficulties of tryin
Tim Dewald
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alarming and depressing. Frustrating and illuminating. If you wonder why it seems so easy to fill prisons with low-level drug offenders, but impossible to hold those responsible for the financial crisis accountable for their crimes: this book is for you.

This book elucidates, through a sometimes convoluted and messy weave of disparate characters and events, the complete collapse of white collar prosecution in the United States.

Like many of us, the book’s greatest strength is also its greatest wea
Shivakumar Srinivasan
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Of the 100’s of books which goes to describe and explain many of the white collar crimes, including the Enron Fiasco or the GFC of 2008, and many more, this remarkable book goes indepth to explore the one thing none of the other books did, Why were none of the senior executives of all these companies, who were guilty , ever prosecuted? Its a tour de force of the evolution of the US legal system and prosecution of white collar crimes and packed with tons of anecdotes and aide stories , many of wh ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: finance
Scattered writing with too much about trivial persons.

One quote was interesting:
"Liberals made a political choice to favor social reform over resistance to business impunity"

The appeal courts have gutted many laws about business fraud,
congress needs to rewrite these.

I think the majority of amerikans now think the entire federal gov is one big chickenshit club.

Look at all the votes Sanders and Trump got in the last election.

In spite of libtard media attempts to discredit him,
support for Trump and
Lauren Lindley
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked this up after a disappointing read in Elizabeth Warren's most recent book regarding the same subject. I heard a Terry Gross interview with Eisinger and realized that his recount of the failures of the DoJ in our current economic client were going to be significantly more thorough than Warren's, which they are. If you are looking for a fairly detailed, but not droll account of everything from Enron to the recent bank bailouts, this is the book for you. In the end, a well written incredib ...more
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read on why corporate criminals don't go to jail anymore. Eisinger's research is fascinating as he follows the last 15 years and the impact of political appointees on corporate prosecution including at the DOJ and SEC. He shows how hard working public servants have been continually undercut by their bosses and gone soft on corporate crooks.
The level of detail is impressive but Eisinger is not dry and writes a powerful narrative with real people.
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133 likes · 16 comments
“In the mid-1980s, Congress authorized the creation of the US Sentencing Commission to examine prison terms and codify norms to correct the arbitrary punishments meted out by unaccountable judges. First, in 1989 the commission’s guidelines for individuals went into effect, establishing a point system for how many years of prison a convicted criminal might get, based on the seriousness of the misconduct and a person’s criminal history. In 1991, amid public and congressional outrage that sentences for white-collar criminals were too light and fines and sanctions for corporations too lenient, the Sentencing Commission expanded the concept to cover organizations. It formalized the Sporkin-era regime of offering leniency in exchange for cooperation and reform. The new rules delineated factors that could earn a culprit mercy. In levying a fine, the court should consider, the sentencing guidelines said, “any collateral consequences of conviction.” 1 “Collateral consequences” was, and remains, an ill-defined concept. How worried should the government be if a punishment causes a company to go out of business? Should regulators worry about the cashiering of innocent employees? What about customers, suppliers, or competitors? Should they fret about financial crises? From this rather innocuous mention, the little notion of collateral consequences would blossom into the great strangling vine that came to be known after the financial crisis of 2008 by its shorthand: “too big to jail.” Prosecutors and regulators were crippled by the idea that the government could not criminally sanction some companies—particularly giant banks—for fear that they would collapse, causing serious problems for financial markets or the economy.” 2 likes
“You’re totally wrong!” Rakoff cried. He explained that the rule against split infinitives was just a bizarre invention by some pedants in the late nineteenth century to have English mimic Latin, in which infinitives are one word. All the great authors—Shakespeare! Faulkner!—split the infinitive.” 0 likes
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