Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi has written another important and detailed expose on the ‘get away with everything’ cards that the free world continues to hand out to bankers. In Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail. How HSBC hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists. And got away with it Taibbi carefully lays out once more pages of incontrovertible evidence on years of flagrant violations by HSBC as the money laundering banker of choice to the world’s drug cartel and terrorist organizations.
The bank’s reward has been trillions in profits over the past decade, as the margin on laundered money is typically 20%. In just the 4 years between 2006-2009, $200 trillion in wire transfers passed through HSBC without any monitoring at all, including from high-risk countries like Mexico.
After more than a decade of “stupefying abuses” providing “specialty services” for everyone from Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Russian gangsters,sanctioned countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea, to all manner of murderers and the world’s largest tax cheats, this past December, HSBC agreed to a fine of $1.9 billion, or as Taibbi points out “about five weeks’ profit”, without so much as one day of jail for any individual involved. As explained by US Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at the press conference announcing the settlement, “Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.” In other words, why would we want to impede such a profitable corporate felon that serves the world’s biggest criminals?
Taibbi further outlines how the worlds’ largest 16 banks were most recently caught red handed (once more) in the LIBOR interest rate scandal–the largest price-fixing ring ever in human history. And to date have been let off the hook with nothing more than business-as-usual fines where regulators in Britain and America avoided exacting any lasting sanctions or penalties to the institutions or actors:
“Thus in the space of just a few weeks, regulators in Britain and America teamed up to declare near-total surrender to crime and monopoly. This was more than a couple of cases of letting rich guys walk. These were major policy decisions that will reverberate for the next generation…In other words, Bruer is saying that the banks have us by the balls, and the social cost of putting their executives in jail might end up being larger than the cost of letting them get away with, well, anything.
This is bullshit, and exactly the opposite of the truth, but it’s what our current government believes. From JonBenet to O.J. to Robert Blake, Americans have long understood that the rich get good lawyers and get off, while the poor suck eggs and do time. But this is something different. This is the government admitting to being afraid to prosecute the very powerful – something it never did even in the heydays of Al Capone or Pablo Escobar, something it didn’t do even with Richard Nixon. And when you admit that some people are too important to prosecute, it’s just a few short steps to the obvious corollary – that everybody else is unimportant enough to jail.
An arrestable class and an unarrestable class. We always suspected it, now it’s admitted. So what do we do?”
Admittedly, there are moments when the situation feels hopeless. And yet, to do nothing is to concede to the triumph of evil and darkness. Thinking people everywhere must stand up and demand that the banks and their executives and employees be personally prosecuted, penalized and where necessary the institutions broken up or put out of business. The large banks have become enemy number one of democracy, fairness, capitalism and free markets everywhere. The vampire squid is killing any hope for civil society.