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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Crooks and Swindlers Protection Act of 1995

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) has been busy lately throwing his weight around the Senate, the White House and over at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to pass what many consumer and investor groups call the “Crooks and Swindlers Protection Act of 1995.”

Dodd, whose definition of liberalism is being for child care and for unbridled corporate power against the rest of America, is demanding that President Clinton endorse S. 240 — legislation that would strip away the rights of defrauded investors and savers to go after the crooks and swindlers in court to get their money back.

You’ll remember that corporate crime wave known delicately as the savings and loans debacle — a bailout that cost taxpayers, in interest and principal, about $500 billion.

Well, as any readers of the Wall St. Journal and Barrons Financial Weekly news and features columns know, this savings bank collapse was only part of a financial industry crime wave over the past fifteen years. Some of the culprits went to jail; most of them escaped or endured slaps on the wrist. You’re paying the bills.

Instead of moving to strengthen the corporate crime laws, Dodd has taken the lead in weakening them and setting the stage for more swindles, more victims and more lost life savings and, looted pension trusts. On his behalf, Dodd plays his Gingrich card by saying that S. 240 is a moderate bill compared to the House-passed version. This is like saying acute tuberculosis is preferable to the more immediate Ebola virus.

What makes Dodd different than dozens of concurring Senators, whose leashes are tied to corporate money bags is that he is the co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Heads of the DNC are in the business of raising money for their fellow politicians. Appointed by the President to this post, Dodd puts the imprimatur of what he supports right on the White House which in turn is loathe to cross their own appointee. Senators, who are up for re-election in 1996, rely on Dodd to allocate monies for their campaign and are therefore unusually receptive to his urgings on legislation.

As a relentless stripper of the rights of wrongfully injured or wrongfully defrauded Americans, Dodd has become a public menace to our democracy and is splitting the Democratic Party into the corporatist wing against the progressive wing.

Consider some specifics. Bowing to his insurance industry masters, Dodd favors usurping the role of state judges and juries by federalizing cruel $250,000 caps on the compensation for a lifetime of pain and suffering that can be awarded to seriously disabled victims of manufacturers of dangerous products or incompetent physicians. He says nary a word on capping the $250,000 a week that the CEO of the giant AIG Insurance company rakes in from the same pot of money without any pain and suffering.

If you have lost your investments or savings due to business law breakers, Dodd wants to require you to prove willful fraud, not just deception or recklessness.

He wants to prohibit you from going after accounting, consulting, or law firms that aid and abet the fraud. He supports limiting the time period for suing to only three years after the fraud, often concealed, started for your investment. These and other subversions of law and order for business crooks make Dodd soft on corporate crime.

What makes Dodd’s obeisance to big money so obstinate are the hundreds of major non-business constituencies that are against S. 240.

Consumer groups, trade unions, Universities, religious groups, law enforcement officials, state county and local associations such as the mayors, county officials and state treasurers are opposed. The Fraternal Order of Police and other associations having pension trusts to invest are opposed. Most financial columnists and editorials have come out against this cheaters’ rights legislation.

How can this be? One answer lies in why the Senators from both Parties left town mid-day on Friday, the 23rd of June during the debate on S. 240. They were heading for fundraisers.

One of them was on Green Acres Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Listed on the program for the fat cats, sipping Perrier and chewing on shrimp, was none other than Senator Christopher Dodd. This practitioner of cash register politics likes to collect on time.