Too big to jail ought to mean too big to exist. Don't dare rob a bank or run drugs across the border, or you're sure as hell going to prison. But if you're a megabank which might take down our economy, by all means feel free to break the law with a slap on the wrist.
HSBC receives get-out-of-jail-free card in a real-life game of Monopoly.
The New York Times reports this week that megabank HSBC has escaped criminal prosecution for money laundering that probably funded terrorists and narcotics traffickers. Why? Because regulators and prosecutors were petrified that an indictment would undermine the entire financial system. The Times quotes anonymous government sources who confessed fears about bringing formal charges because doing so would be a "death sentence" for the bank. So they let it off the hook.
That’s right, HSBC is officially above the law. Too-big-to-fail has become too-big-to-prosecute.
A year-long investigation found that the British banking giant had blown right past federal laws by laundering billions of dollars from Mexican drug trafficking and processing banned transactions on behalf of Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma. A Wednesday Times article serves up vivid passages about the shady goings-on, including HSBC officials working closely with Saudi Arabian banks linked to terrorist organizations. According to the report, "the four-count criminal information filed in the court charged HSBC with failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, to conduct due diligence on its foreign correspondent affiliates and for violating sanctions and the Trading With the Enemy Act."
In a statement, the bank said it “will acknowledge that, in the past, we have sometimes failed to meet the standards that regulators and customers expect.” HSBC apologized and promised never, ever to do it again, scout’s honor.
I’m pretty sure I know what would happen to me if I stole a loaf of bread from the corner store. But a big bank can act as financier to freaking terrorists and never worry about things like jail. Funny how a corporation is a person until it breaks the law. Read on...