Goldman Sachs has just settled with the Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA) to the tune of a cool 3.15 BILLION dollars! This comes on the heels of multi-billion dollar settlements between the Federal Government and other giants of the banking industry. The settlement will certainly cut into Goldman’s profits, which in 2013, were just over 8 billion.
Now, here’s a tiny bit more context. Goldman is the largest broker of hedge fund activity in the world. They provide the very largest hedge funds (nearly 20% of the entire industry) with services such as financing, trading and holding assets. Last year, the top hedge fund manager’s personal compensation was 4 BILLION dollars. The second highest, an ex-Goldman employee, was 3.5 billion. In other words, the financial industry regularly sees ANNUAL individual compensations meeting and exceeding the fines being paid by entire institutions.
And because the government has systematically chosen to settle (the bar for conviction is perversely high), none of these agents of the 2008 financial crash have to admit wrong-doing. While conviction may not be in the cards, the process of a trial would surely have revealed more than a few unpleasantries. So they settle. Again and again. (If you follow these patterns into how corporations behave with one another, settlement has allowed for large scale collusion by pharmaceutical and patent industry giants, amongst others. Weakened regulators try and keep up. When they give up, they are systematically hired by the industries they were once charged with regulating.)
These corporations have become settlers of a different sort. And they colonize from within. As we leave behind settler colonialism and enter into an era of settlement capitalism, we can begin to glean some of the symptoms of the autocolonial turn. If the British perfected the practice of divide and conquer during their Empire, note how the same principle has devastated the institutions of liberal democracy in the United States.