WASHINGTON -- White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley declined on Sunday to bring the president into the debate over why no major player in the collapse of the financial system in 2008 has gone to jail.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Daley, who worked as an executive at JP Morgan prior to joining the White House, said it wasn’t the role of a politician, let alone a president, to weigh in on judicial matters. Besides that, he added, the reforms that Obama instituted years after the crash occurred were indicative of his dissatisfaction with the financial sector.
“I think the president, no one has been more out front on the need for financial reform,” said Daley. “Obviously the justice system will take its place and the politicians should not engage in trying to say who should be prosecuted or who should not. That is not a responsible thing to do. You have a number of attorney generals moving forward on cases that are legitimate. But the president felt very strongly -- that’s why he fought so hard for national regulatory reform -- that the system has got to change.
“Most of the laws that the financial sector worked under were enacted closer to the Civil War than to this century. He fought, it was tough, to be honest with you, I was in an industry that… fought many of it, not all of it, probably 85 percent of it the industry wanted. They wanted to stop too-big-to-fail and a number of other of things. But it was controversial, difficult, but he hung in there and got what he wanted.”
Pressed a bit further, Daley refused once again to say whether “it is illegitimate or not” for the people to demand jail time for the culprits of the crash. “Politicians should not get involved. Producers, directors can do that. But politicians should not get involved.”
The director to whom Daley was referring was Charles Ferguson, who won an Academy Award for his documentary "Inside Job" -- which looked at the cause and scope of the crash -- and who bemoaned the lack of jail time for the primary offenders during his acceptance speech.
Daley’s past work on Wall Street makes him, perhaps, not the best spokesman for the administration on this front -- serious-minded observers would dispute his claim that the law signed by the president ends too-big-to-fail. And his acknowledgment that the industry in which he served opposed (however slightly) the president’s regulatory reform laws only underscores the fact that the White House has been as concerned with courting the support of the financial sector as they have been with prosecuting its transgressions.