Ah, Don Corleone, you would wish for these days. You would never worry about running a crooked business, breaking the law, or shaking down your customers. Because, if the government came after you, you’d have a ready-made defense, a tested defense handed you by the big banks, and their apologists: don’t indict me and my associates because we’d be out of business.
I mean, this really is comical. An inkling of a slightly tougher line with banks — a slight indication that prosecutors would push for guilty pleas instead of no-plea with fines deals, (and as I’ll point out in a moment, even the inkling is rubbish — and we get this crap:
For one, banking regulators are likely to sound alarms about the economy. HSBC avoided charges in a money laundering case last year after concerns arose that an indictment could put the bank out of business. In the first interest rate-rigging case, prosecutors briefly considered criminal charges against an arm of Barclays, but they hesitated given the bank’s cooperation and its importance to the financial system, two people close to the case said.
So, here’s why this is rubbish. The big difference between what has happened and this supposed tough line is extracting some guilty plea, as opposed to a plea where the whole world knows you are guilty but there is a bullshit fiction created in which the bank doesn’t plead guilty but pays a huge fine. It’s a complete sham.
To start, a bank can’t plead guilty or not guilty. A bank is a legal creation. The bank “name” covers and hides a whole raft of top executives and a board of directors who made decisions that, collectively, destroyed the economy and put millions of people out of work.
The whole fiction of these deals, whether you plead guilty or not guilty, is that not a single executive goes to jail. In fact, “the beauty” of this whole farce is that the only people who pay a price are either the shareholders, who pay whatever financial penalty is levied, or the customers who pay the fines in the form of higher fees or workers who get laid off because of cost-cutting imposed partly because of the hit to earnings from a large fine. That’s been true in the case of Barclay’s, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase, just to name a few.
The culprits? They keep their jobs and keep getting high salaries.
And nothing changes.
Don Corleone could never have conjured up such a perfect world.