HSBC: Too Big to Jail?
So London-based bank HSBC has been in the news lately.
US investigations uncovered that HSBC laundered $7 billion in drug money for the Mexican cartel and that, at its peak, the bank was washing 60% to 70% of all the dirty money in Mexico.
HSBC also helped rogue nations like Libya, Sudan, Burma and Iran to flaunt US laws banning those countries from moving money through the US banking system. HSBC helped Iran move $19.2 billion by hiding the source of the money in nearly 25,000 transactions.
Evidence was also found that HSBC maintained a relationship with Al Rajhi bank even after it was designated a terrorist support organization for financing bin Laden's and Al Qaeda's move to Afghanistan and funneling money to one of the 9/11 hijackers.
One would think that with all the damning evidence against HSBC that the DoJ would be prosecuting the sh*t out of the bank and its executives for violating US and international law for nigh on a decade. But you would be wrong.
Instead, the DoJ announced that HSBC has agreed to pay a fine of $1.9 billion. DoJ honchos are trying to play up the fine, saying that it is a record amount (which it is), but they aren't mentioning that the fine amounts to about a month of HSBC's profits. Hardly more than an effete slap on the wrist.
Now US government officials are claiming that they went after a fine instead of prosecuting the banks because of the "collateral consequences" of taking the bank to court, mainly that it would have lost its US banking license and likely destabilized the international banking system.
Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi explained just how much the DoJ pussed out in going after HSBC, especially as it relates to the War on Drugs. He pointed out that the forfeiture laws in effect in most of America allows the police to seize any and all money they merely suspect is related to the drug trade as well as seize anything bought with said drug money. If the same laws that apply to the average citizen applied to HSBC, the government should have fined the bank all the profits it made over the past decade as well as forced its executives to pay back their salaries and bonuses while confiscating everything they bought with that tainted money.