Friday, May 26, 2023

Merrick Garland has allowed corporate corruption to flourish, raising alarms about Wells Fargo, drug-trafficking, and the roles of Julian Banton and Carol Garrison in the decline of Birmigham institutions

Joe Biden and Merrick Garland

Merrick Garland is the most ineffective U.S. attorney general of the past 50 years and could do Americans a favor by resigning, according to an editorial opinion today at Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney and businessman, writes under the headline "Merrick Garland: The Most Useless Attorney General in Modern History":

I have seen my share of weak, incompetent, and useless U.S. Attorneys General since I graduated from law school in 1973. None of them has been as useless as Merrick Garland.

What is more, Merrick Garland always seems to be “missing in action” when his presence is needed the most.

Forget about "open borders" at the U.S.-Mexican border. That public safety threat pales in comparison to the culture of open lawlessness that Merrick Garland and his fellow eunuchs at the Department of Justice have allowed big Wall Street banks and corporations to enjoy in a carefree manner. These banks and corporations are today's "untouchables," and they know it.

These Wall Street companies also operate as financial predators who gouge ordinary Americans every chance they get -- simply because they can. Under Merrick Garland's so-called “leadership,” no one is policing their conduct.

That is a grim scenario, and it raises this question: How does our country suffer when big-dollar crooks are allowed to operate with impunity because they are "too big to prosecute"? An answer can be gleaned by examining the evolving accounting-fraud/hush-money scandal at Atlanta-based Southern Company, the nation's second largest utility and parent firm to Alabama Power and other subsidiaries. Three Alabama-based blogs --, (operating under the CDLU public charity and advocacy group), and Legal Schnauzer -- have written dozens (probably hundreds) of posts about the underhanded ways Southern Company conducts business. Meanwhile, Merrick Garland and his underlings at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have shown little inclination to take action against the brazen corruption at Southern Company. Does Garland want to avoid getting his hands dirty, while fat-cat CEO's laugh in his direction, knowing they will not be held accountable? That appears to be the case, writes Watkins:

Privately, the CEOs who head big publicly traded companies like the Atlanta-based Southern Company view Merrick Garland and his law-enforcement team at the Department of Justice as a bunch of “punks.” While sipping bourbon and smoking Cuban cigars at private dinners, these CEOs laugh as they brag about the choke hold they have on Merrick Garland and his Department of Justice.

Today, the best opportunity for a career-minded criminal is to embed himself/herself as the chief executive officer of a New York Stock Exchange/Fortune 500 company. From this corporate perch, a crooked CEO can direct subordinates to bribe: (a) elected and appointed public officials (with private jet rides, campaign contributions, and consulting jobs for their wives/mistresses/lovers), (b) state and federal judges (with free hunting trips, private jet rides, and luxury vacations), and (c) state and federal regulators (with complimentary sky-box tickets to sporting events/concerts, and prepaid gift cards for their wives and college-age children) -- all with impunity and without any fear of a federal criminal prosecution.

Occasionally, a powerful billionaire can bribe a U.S. Supreme Court justice with millions of dollars in undeclared and unreported “gifts” and “love offerings,” without worrying about any federal criminal investigation or prosecution.

Yikes, that's a reference to the Clarence Thomas-Harlan Crow bromance, which has helped unmask the U.S. Supreme Court as just another cash grab, which might as well have a sign out front that reads "Justice for Sale. Inquire Within." Watkins has career advice for ethically-challenged up-and-comers who want to climb the career ladder while skipping a few rungs:

Wall Street banks enjoy the freedom to go on nationwide, decades-long crime sprees, without any fear of a federal criminal prosecution. Wells Fargo Bank is the “poster boy” for financial crimes without criminal consequences. Its brazen crime sprees since 2000 inspired Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic Bank, and other publicly traded banks to follow suit.

What is more, the ingratiating look on Garland’s face in the feature photo accompanying this article tells us that Hunter Biden has nothing to worry about at Garland's Department of Justice, despite the growing evidence of criminal conspiracy, wire fraud, and tax evasion offenses committed by First Son Hunter Biden and those who acted in concert with him.

The Wells Fargo sleaze fest might hit closer to home than many Alabamians realize. That's because retired banker Julian Banton, the husband of former UAB president Carol Garrison, helped bring Wells Fargo into the Birmigham community. Here's how it happened: Julian Banton is the former president and CEO of SouthTrust Bank, which merged with Wachovia Bank in 2004, and Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia in 2008. Before Wells Fargo aligned with Wachovia, it became well known that the latter was tied to drug trafficking, as we reported in an August 2012 post:

Julian Banton and drug trafficking--It's undisputed that Wachovia Bank, before it was purchased by Wells Fargo in 2008, was involved in money laundering for international drug traffickers. In fact, bank officials admitted that they had helped move $378.4 billion for Mexican drug cartels and wound up paying $160 million in fines and penalties. The settlement was announced in March 2010, and by that time, many Birmingham residents probably had forgotten a few pertinent facts about our once-proud banking community.

Wachovia had a major presence here, and that's because it merged with Birmingham-based SouthTrust in 2004. Until the merger, SouthTrust was known as one of Birmingham's "Big Four" banks, a quartet that helped make the city one of the top 10 banking centers in the United States.

The SouthTrust/Wachovia marriage did not go so well, to put it mildly. Wachovia made a number of ill-advised acquisitions and took on so many risky loans that it was on the verge of failure before the Wells Fargo purchase. In fact, Wachovia's slipshod practices played a supporting role in the U.S. financial crisis that started in 2007.

Who helped make the SouthTrust/Wachovia marriage happen, costing Birmingham a significant number of banking jobs and exposing the city to a reckless financial culture? Julian Banton was one of the top two executives at SouthTrust, along with Wallace Malone, so he almost certainly played a major hand in it. Banton retired from SouthTrust in 2003, but it appears one of his last acts was to help set the Wachovia merger in motion.

In short, Julian Banton played a leading role in the decline of Birmingham's once-proud banking industry, and his wife led her own ethically challenged administration at UAB before she unceremoniously "resigned" as fall classes were set to begin in fall 2008. (By the way, that's a very peculiar time for a university president to resign.)

How crooked was Carol Garrison's tenure at UAB? Well it involved a romance with former University of Tennessee President John Shumaker, generating enough dirt to prompt us to write a four-part series on the romance and associated corruption. (Note: We will have more in future posts on Wells Fargo, Wachovia, drug trafficking, Julian Banton, Carol Garrison, and the decline of both Birmingham's banking community and UAB.)

Let's return to Donald Watkins' op-ed piece on Merrick Garland:

Merrick Garland is totally useless as a federal law-enforcement official. He uses a laid-back public persona and somber look at press conferences to mask his impotence and incompetence in the job. This manufactured persona is intended to portray Garland as a mature, seasoned, and experienced prosecutor.

This fake persona is not working.

Today, there is a non-stop frontal attack on the constitutional and civil rights of Americans of color, women, the elderly, children, and LGBTQIA Americans by MAGA politicians across the nation. These politicians have sized up Merrick Garland as an extremely weak man and inept Attorney General.

Even though I am NOT a MAGA supporter, I totally agree with this assessment.

In my opinion, Merrick Garland was never fit to serve as the nation's top criminal prosecutor or the chief protector and defender of the constitutional and civil rights of the Americans who are most at-risk in this country.

Personally, I would never rely on Merrick Garland to defend my basic constitutional and civil rights in any courtroom. Neither should you.

What is the solution? Donald Watkins says it is simple: Merrick Garland must go:

One thing is clear to me at this juncture: We cannot get rid of Merrick Garland unless we get rid of Joe Biden. Both men are perennial weaklings who appear to be joined at the hip.

In the interest of full disclosure: I have never been a Joe Biden fan.

Thirty-one years ago, Joe Biden had a chance to kill Clarence Thomas’ nomination as a Supreme Court justice, but he did not have the “balls” to do so. Biden’s failure of leadership as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee 31 years ago has caused tens of millions of Americans of color, women, the elderly, children, and LGBTQIA Americans to lose their constitutional and civil rights in cases where Thomas’ vote on the Supreme Court made the difference.

We all know by now that Clarence Thomas is a "run-of-the-mill crook" who has engaged in a "pay-to-play" scheme for 27 years on the Supreme Court bench. Yet, Merrick Garland has NOT opened a criminal investigation into Thomas' vote-selling and tax-evasion conduct.

I have zero confidence in Merrick Garland as Attorney General of the United States. We cannot expect a man with no backbone to stand up and fight for the rights of the most vulnerable groups of Americans.

Merrick Garland has failed himself, and he has failed America. He needs to resign, now!


James Greek said...

The minute I found out Biden was aligned with Doug Jones I lost trust in him.

legalschnauzer said...

Me, too, James. I'll still take Biden over the current alternatives, but he needs to keep Doug Jones at arm's length.