AN AMERICAN TRADITION WE DON’T NEED

To its credit, this Administration formed a task force within the Department of Justice to deal with violations by banks of federal banking and other laws. To date, however, the results have been less than impressive. While at least six major banks over the last several years, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and ING have been fined for circumventing laws like the Trading With the Enemy Act, which supposedly prevents financial institutions from financially aiding enemy nations, not one individual, let alone any financial institution, has been criminally prosecuted. The DOJ has now reached a new low with the recently announced settlement with HSBC where, once again, a bank has been fined to resolve a pending prosecution. What made this case even more egregious than other prosecutions, however, is that HSBC was not only transferring billions of dollars to rogue nations like Iran but they were also supporting banks directly funneling funds to terrorist groups and HSBC was directly laundering money for Mexican drug cartels. In another example of the concept of “too big to fail,” the reasoning for dropping the criminal indictments was the supposed effect such prosecutions could have on the banking system and the world economy as a whole, a position that our own Treasury Department declined to endorse. The message here should be very clear: as long as you’re a big financial institution, if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, don’t sweat it, you’ll be able to buy off the authorities. I remember thinking that the wall street protesters had it only partially right when they were protesting large financial institutions for their perceived actions in flaunting the law; they should have also been standing before the White House protesting the complicity of government in supporting those actions. Just think if Bernie Made Off With had been the CEO of a large bank rather than a single individual. Today, instead of being in prison, he’d probably be basking on a beach on the French Riviera.

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