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  August 3, 2017

What Do We Know About Christopher Wray?

Newly confirmed FBI Director Christopher Wray is the most "patrician" and "Wall Street-oriented" lawyer that has ever held the position, says Tax Justice Network's James Henry
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James S. Henry is an investigative economist and lawyer, a Global Justice Fellow at Yale University, and a Senior Advisor at the Tax Justice Network. Previously, James served as Chief Economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. As an investigative journalist his work has appeared in numerous publications like Forbes, The Nation and The New York Times.


PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay. On Monday, Christopher Wray was confirmed as the new head of the FBI. Now joining us to talk about this appointment is James Henry. James is an investigative economist, a lawyer, and global justice fellow at Yale. He's also a Senior Advisor to the Tax Justice Network. Thanks for joining us, James.

JAMES HENRY: You're quite welcome.

PAUL JAY: James, the appointment was pretty overwhelming, a 92 to 5, I think it was, the vote in the Senate to confirm him. What do we know about Mr. Wray?

JAMES HENRY: Well, he's a very patrician FBI director. He is by far the most Wall Street-oriented lawyer that we've ever seen in that post. He has no law enforcement experience. The Senate confirmation hearings were really very thin. Didn't really get into his background. The main point about Wray is that he spent the last 12 years, as sort of 70% of his professional legal career, defending white collar corporations and banks. I mean, among his banks that he's defended are major serial offenders like HSBC, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank.

PAUL JAY: All banks that were accused of fraud and many winded up paying massive fines, and were involved in a lot of out and out shenanigans.

JAMES HENRY: I added up the top felonies and settlements for the top 22 banks in the world from 2000 to 2015. It's something like 655 offenses. Credit Suisse committed 35 of them. HSBC was also way at the top of the list. I first encountered Wray in the context of the 2014 Credit Suisse deal, where he negotiated a kind of a sweetheart settlement with the Department of Justice. Credit Suisse had been involved in laundering money and helping assist tax evasion for 22,000 wealthy Americans taking money out of the country, more than $20 billion that we know of over a two decade period. They got off with a tax deductible fine of $2.5 billion. Nobody went to jail. They didn't lose any operating licenses. This is all due to Christopher Wray's good offices working with the Justice Department.

He's worked very closely with people like Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch in his career at the Justice Department in the past, even though he was a Bush administration appointee. I think it's just kind of outrageous that this fellow has now moved from being the key attorney for leading Suisse Laundry Bank to being the FBI Director.

PAUL JAY: Well, I guess one argument could be, given how well he knows how to do laundry, he'll be a good investigator of the banking sector as head of the FBI.

JAMES HENRY: I mean, that's always a last resort Joe Kennedy type defense. FDR appointed Joe Kennedy to be head of the SEC because he said he knew all the games. I don't think there's any evidence that Chris Wray is going to be a militant defender of widows and orphans, who are victims of the mortgage frauds or the sanctions busting, or the tax dodging that helps the rich. He's lived a very comfortable life, of crème de la crème. His father was a lawyer. His uncle was a lawyer. Grandfather and grandfather were Wall Street lawyers. This is kind of the crowd that he's used to and the interests that he will probably feel most comfortable serving.

PAUL JAY: Now is the FBI continuing their own investigation of the Trump campaign? Or this is all in Mueller's camp right now? In this appointment, does Trump think he has someone that won't be going after him? I mean, in theory, the thing we talked about in our other interview of going after some of the financial shenanigans and fraud, you'd think that could still be pursued by the FBI and that he would know, Wray, something about all this.

JAMES HENRY: Yeah, I mean, I don't think Trump is playing this game that carefully. I mean, he's taking one hole at a time here. He knew he had to rid of Comey because Comey was going after him on some of the stuff. He's trying to find somebody who could pass muster with both parties and also be a little bit more controllable.

Wray is a Republican. He served in the Bush administration. He didn't protest very loudly when there were all these memorandum being written about enemy combatants and Guantanamo torture techniques. He didn't resign over that. He supervised the Enron investigation, which in retrospect a lot of the big cases there like Arthur Andersen were reversed on appeal. All of that has been forgotten. I think Trump is basically playing this by ear. He'll see what Wray does. As I said, there's no evidence that this is a fellow who is going to be a militant defender of civil liberties or an aggressive investigator of white collar crime.

PAUL JAY: Thanks for joining us, James.

JAMES HENRY: You're welcome.

PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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