Did Bankers Go to Jail for Causing Great Depression?

No, although a couple were charged and some were embarrassed
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2011 2:40 PM CST
People walk out of the JP Morgan headquarters in New York City September 13, 2000.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The government could soon prosecute a few Wall Streeters who allegedly played a role in the financial crisis, and the commission that uncovered those at fault was modeled on a similar probe after the Great Depression. So did anyone who precipitated that collapse ever go to jail? Nope, writes Brian Palmer in Slate’s Explainer column: “The rampant speculation and eventual crash of 1929 weren't caused by fraud or illegality, but by unreasonable optimism and loose financial regulation.”

Even so, the feds did bring charges against some of that era’s most aggressive bankers, like Samuel Insull, who cost his investors nearly $800 million, and Charles “Sunshine Charley” Mitchell, who pushed shady investments on customers. But thanks to the lack of pre-existing rules, Insull was acquitted and Mitchell got off with a fine. Others were simply embarrassed by the probe, like JP Morgan, who had to admit he hadn’t paid taxes for three years thanks to investment losses.

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