The Privilege of the Pritzkers
by DENNIS BERNSTEIN
DB: When Obama was elected the first time, one of the first things Penny did was represent all the major, highest end of the corporate interests in Congress to resist any attempt to make it easy for people to unionize.
TA: One of the largest hotel workers unions, UNITE HERE, is not going to fight this thing with Penny because it would embarrass the president, and since these union people are democrats and love unions and Barak says he loves unions too, they don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with the president. So UNITE HERE is selling out their own people in Chicago, and the whole Hyatt chain throughout the country, to protect the president. It’s disgraceful. They know the story. I’ve had their people interview me twice. The union gets abused by the Pritzkers, but they take it because they don’t want to hurt their president. Penny is immune from both sides. The far right doesn’t touch her because they like the kind of money she makes for them, and the left doesn’t want to fight her because Barak is their candidate. They know how to play both horses in a race.
DB: How close is the relationship? Is it true that Michelle and Penny used to run together?
TA: I don’t know. There are stories in the Wall Street Journal and Chicago papers that before Obama was a senator, they used to vacation together in one of Penny’s homes in Michigan. I think it’s accepted that they are very, very close. And for the billion dollars that she raised in 2008, she’s even closer.
DB: Is it true that when Barak Obama was in the Illinois state legislature, he received written complaints from people who were being ripped off by Penny?
TA: That’s my understanding.
DB: When people who lost their money in Superior were hustled, such as by the companies selling off the debt to other companies, people didn’t know who they were paying or who owned their property.
TA: The Pritzkers would sell them into bonds, and they got all their money back, plus a profit when someone else owned the debt. You made the payments to Superior Bank, but the notes had been sold to other investors – Superior just serviced the debt. People’s lives were made miserable because they would make a payment, but it would be held until after a due date and then they’d get a penalty.
DB: They paid the interest for years but could never pay down the loan.
TA: There’s a whole show of how you run predatory lending. The Pritzkers are masters. This was known by the government on July 3, 2000. The NCRC, National Coalition of Reinvestment Act, wrote a letter to the OTS complaining that Superior Bank was the largest predatory lender in the land. They were complaining about it and talking about how they would book these mortgages and set them up so the people would fail – it was designed to fail so they could foreclose. The report shows how Superior Bank targeted minorities three and four times greater than any other subprime lender. Superior Bank in 98, 99 and 2000 targeted the minority community for their subprime mortgages – to refinance them and get them into trouble. No shame whatsoever.
DB: There were many suits that non-profits took on.
TA: There was one successful guy who represented the James and Irene Phillips family in West Virginia. They were mentally challenged.
DB: I read that lawsuit and spoke to their social policy attorney. They were mostly minors and were targeted by the zip codes. You could see whole zip codes of houses disappearing because Penny’s front man was saying meet me at McDonalds and people would sign over what their house was worth, 18, 20 30 thousand dollars. It didn’t matter because the Pritzkers took them all.
TA: Yes. It was a very sophisticated con game. They were the best in the business at hurting the poor people – they did a superb job. Look at what they’ve done to the middle class, to everyone’s retirement, every pension fund that lost money in ’08, ’09 and 2010. The Pritzkers destroyed the American economy, which destroyed the world economy. It’s time for the Senate to ask Penny, when she goes before them, to explain. Let the staffers do their research, talk to me, you, others who have done the research. Look at the documentation. Make Penny answer the questions.
DB: And she never has. On September 11, 2001, and this is in no way is to suggest a conspiracy, but she was supposed to testify on the day the twin towers were hit. She was already in Washington, and that investigation was cancelled. There was never even the beginning of a follow-up. Tell us about Bert Healy.
TA: Bert Healy is a well-renowned bank consultant who is quoted in every business publication when they talk about banks. He, and George Kaufman, professor at Loyola University, and Ellen Sideman, the head of the Office of Supervision, were all sworn in on 9/11, ready to give their testimony. Healy will tell you the story that they were all there, sworn in, in the cloak room waiting to go back in, when they were told the first building was hit. When the first building was hit, they didn’t know it was a terrorist attack because we thought one plane had gone off course. Healy says all of a sudden they are back in the room and staffers are whispering to the senators, then the senators all left, came back, and said “Maybe you people want to leave too.” That was 9/11. Then Ellen Salmon wrote their report after the fact, a report that is part of the public record. I’ve got copies of all their reports. Penny was on the list to appear, but this was Penny Pritzker. I don’t know if she was there. She hires lawyers. She’s a lawyer; they all are. The original business of Pritzker and Pritzker was a law firm. The Forbes magazine story shows that the whole Pritzker enterprise was a Chicago-based law firm.
DB: They are very secretive folks. It will be interesting to see her as Secretary of Commerce. She wants a bit of the high profile now. We know a lot more about her because her kids sued her.
TA: Lisa and Matthew, her half brother and sister, sued all the Pritzkers. That’s how we found out as much as we did, but that left us to uncover more and more and more. Four years ago she had to decline it ??? because the family hadn’t been divided. Now she can fill out a financial statement, which will show that she owns x amount of shares of Bushar-Hathaway, x amount of shares of the Hyatt. She may or may not disclose how much she owns of the casinos, other shipping companies, etc. It will all be a great deal of money in trust. It’s not her wealth but her power and influence – her ability not to be held accountable for the damage that Superior Bank did to our economy that is the real shame.
DB: Many of the people who lose their money in the casinos are poor and working class folks. But her first casinos were the banks, in the context of the subprime meltdown.
TA: All their businesses were casinos, and the house always wins, no matter what business they’re in. It’s up to the public to pay attention. Adlei Stevenson the first, the vice presidential candidate, grandfather of the senator and father of the governor, said by and large, the people get exactly what they ask for. Typically, at the time, they don’t realize that’s what they are asking for. If the public is upset with our Congress and Senate, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Now it’s up to them to tell their senators, “Before you approve her to be Secretary of Commerce, make her answer the questions about her role, not her wealth, but her role in the subprime securitization mess.” She needs to answer to her role in the mortgage meltdown which basically destroyed our whole economy. They need to be prepared to ask her the right questions. If they don’t, she’ll just walk right through it and get free pass like she’s always gotten. The burden is on the public.
DB: This is one of those stories that I refuse to let go of. I put this story in my book about Henry Hyde, who was part of this Chicago story. These are not just the 1%, this is privileged wealth, the 1% of the 1%.
TA: These are the people who are immune from prosecution or any form of accountability. They are above the Madoffs and the Corzines of the world. They can do whatever they want, and no one is willing to hold them accountable.