Too big to convict?
The latest disclosure of criminal activity by one the world’s largest multinational financial institutions, HSBC, (see the recent Times Argus editorial), once more has made a mockery of our justice system. The crimes this time involve the bank’s money laundering operation for Mexican drug cartels and illegal dealings with Iran.
The Justice Department’s fine of $2 billion might sound impressive until one realizes that HSBC revenues for 2011 were $106 billion and its total assets are $2.6 trillion. This so-called punishment is little more than a mild financial spanking. Moreover, HSBC is a business entity, not a person (regardless of Citizens United), and it was people who actually committed these crimes. Apparently criminal prosecution of them was deemed too difficult, mostly due to the size and power of HSBC.
As the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary film “Inside Job” pointed out concerning fraud within the sub-prime mortgage/derivative fiasco, a double standard of non-prosecution also seemed to exist for those in charge of mega financial corporations that engaged in such criminal activity. Until these executives start receiving substantial jail time, there is little to discourage such practices.
The “Too Big to Convict” excuse for the lack of prosecutorial will by the Justice Department only encourages cynicism by the public and degrades the integrity of the whole justice system.
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