The 2008 financial crisis -- which was sparked almost exactly five years ago by banks and mortgage lenders who claimed that toxic loans were in fact AAA-worthy -- wiped out trillions of dollars of wealth and led to demands for accountability. There had been widespread fraud, after all, and somebody had to pay.
And so federal prosecutors teamed up with three other federal agencies to launch and execute a major criminal investigation. Here's the target of the most high-profile indictment to flow from the financial crisis:
They took down Teresa and Joe Giudice, stars of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey." Their crime? Lying to banks on mortgage applications.
The real purpose of the investigation, however, appeared to be to give federal prosecutors a chance to make groan-inducing, ought-to-be-illegal puns at the press conference announcing the indictment.
"Everyone has an obligation to tell the truth when dealing with the courts, paying their taxes and applying for loans or mortgages. That’s reality," said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, dinging the reality TV stars in what was undoubtedly the high point of his distinguished career.
Shantelle Kitchen, IRS special agent in charge, was a bit less clever, and had to shoe-horn in awkward mentions of "reality" and "real," but got her point across.
"The privilege of living well in the United States carries certain real responsibilities," she said. “Today’s indictment alleges the Giudices did not live up to their responsibilities by failing to file tax returns, falsifying loan applications and concealing assets in their bankruptcy petition. The reality is that this type of criminal conduct will not go undetected and individuals who engage in this type of financial fraud should know they will be held accountable."
See what she did there? Thank you, Special Agent Kitchen.
While the federal prosecutors were cracking jokes and patting themselves on the back for taking down the Giudices, the leaders of the Wall Street firms actually responsible for doing catastrophic damage to the financial system remained free to enjoy the money they made while overseeing the collapse of the global economy.