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Bernanke: Wall Street execs should have gone to jail for crisis

WASHINGTON — Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says some Wall Street executives should have gone to jail for their roles in the financial crisis that gripped the country in 2008 and triggered the Great Recession. Billions of dollars in fines have been levied against banks and brokerages since the meltdown, which was in large part triggered by reckless lending and shady securities dealings that blew up a housing bubble. But in an interview with USA Today, published Sunday, Bernanke said individuals also should have been held accountable. ‘‘It would have been my preference to have more investigations of individual actions, because obviously everything that went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm,’’ he said. Asked if someone should have gone to jail, he replied, ‘‘Yeah, I think so.’’ He did not name any individual he thought should have been prosecuted and noted that the Fed is not a law-enforcement agency. Bernanke is promoting his 600-page memoir, ‘‘The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath,’’ scheduled to be published Monday. He began the book after leaving the Fed in 2014. It details his take on the crisis, in which the government took over the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and provided hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to the biggest financial institutions. He writes that the taxpayer-provided bailouts were hugely unpopular, but necessary to avoid an economic catastrophe. — ASSOCIATED PRESS