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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
Did Bankers Go to Jail for Causing Great Depression?
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.”

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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.
(Read more financial crisis stories.)

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