Friday, December 14, 2012

For banks, nothing is illegal

This would be literally unbelievable, except that we've all become desensitized to the double standard of our justice system -- enforcement of laws against ordinary people, and systematic collusion with large banks and corporate offenders to keep anyone from going to jail. I think Matt Taibbi offers the most honest take on this shameful decision to slap HSBC with fines only, rather than pursuing what should have been slam-dunk prosecutions for money laundering and drug smuggling on a global scale:
Wow. So the executives who spent a decade laundering billions of dollars will have to partially defer their bonuses during the five-year deferred prosecution agreement? Are you fucking kidding me? That's the punishment? The government's negotiators couldn't hold firm on forcing HSBC officials to completely wait to receive their ill-gotten bonuses? They had to settle on making them "partially" wait? Every honest prosecutor in America has to be puking his guts out at such bargaining tactics. What was the Justice Department's opening offer – asking executives to restrict their Caribbean vacation time to nine weeks a year?

So you might ask, what's the appropriate financial penalty for a bank in HSBC's position? Exactly how much money should one extract from a firm that has been shamelessly profiting from business with criminals for years and years? Remember, we're talking about a company that has admitted to a smorgasbord of serious banking crimes. If you're the prosecutor, you've got this bank by the balls. So how much money should you take?

How about all of it? How about every last dollar the bank has made since it started its illegal activity? How about you dive into every bank account of every single executive involved in this mess and take every last bonus dollar they've ever earned? Then take their houses, their cars, the paintings they bought at Sotheby's auctions, the clothes in their closets, the loose change in the jars on their kitchen counters, every last freaking thing. Take it all and don't think twice. And then throw them in jail.

Sound harsh? It does, doesn't it? The only problem is, that's exactly what the government does just about every day to ordinary people involved in ordinary drug cases.

And people wonder why the US falls year after year a little further down the Corruption Perceptions Index? As of 2012, we're just slightly ahead of Chile, Uruguay and The Bahamas. 

67 comments:

  1. Well said For banks, nothing is illegal, they do whatever they want.

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  3. Everything is legal until you get caught.

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  4. A big double standard is in play here. Financial fraud is at a peak and prosecutions are at a low. A sad state of affairs we are in.

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  7. Though the crimes that HSBC committed were quite egregious, Taibbi is not right to equate HSBC with a drug syndicate. The bank for the most part has businesses that make money within the bounds of legality and those gains should not be subject to seizure by the government. In a drug syndicate all of the profits are generated from illicit activity and in those cases it is likely more appropriate to seize those assets.

    The $1.9 billion fine that was levied against HSBC likely was 2-3 times the profit obtained from the illicit transactions as is standard for such fines for financial institutions. So in essence the government did indeed capture all of the gains that were a result of the illegal behavior.

    Finally with respect to the employees, Taibbi is speaking of compliance officers who are only involved with establishing protocols and processes to avoid such situations and were not directly involved in the laundering activities. Most likely it was clever individuals that created ways to circumvent the policies and protocols who were the ones directly in charge. Therefore for at least the compliance officers, the punishment was probably appropriate in kind but if you want to speak of magnitudes I guess that's very subjective.

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  8. The issue is not pertaining to legalities. It's about ethics here. The bank operated within the parameters of lending. However, it was the recent change in regulations that caused this financial crisis. When wall street and bankers got together to securitize mortgages, they created a new market where people can speculate and gamble.

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