A Company Small Enough To Prosecute

A Congressional report entitled "Too Big To Jail" http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/business/a-bank-too-big-to-jail.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffair-game&action=click&contentCollection=business&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection&_r=0 finds that the HSBC Bank accused of laundering nearly $900 million for drug traffickers and processing transactions with a number of countries subject to United States sanctions settled with the government for a fine and an agreement not to be prosecuted as long as it promised "to be good" in the future.

For those few of you who may have read earlier posts of mine, I have been railing against the prosecution and conviction of (5 African-American and 1 white) IRP executives and ranting against the failure to indict and prosecute executives of major companies even when death has resulted from their conduct. The crime of the IRP executives supposedly was misrepresenting to staffing companies about their business prospects in order to have the companies engage and pay programmers to work on the start-up computer program IRP was developing to aid law enforcement. It did not pay its bills (because an FBI raid prevented it from doing so), and thus its executives and officers were indicted and convicted. If they had paid (a total of below $4million spread among 40 companies), there would have been no basis for criminal charges. Earlier posts describe the events in more detail as reported in the Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2016/07/05/judge-who-freed-hurricane-carter-now-helping-six-imprisoned-men-but-only-obama-can-save-them/

I cannot help but compare the magnitude of the crimes asserted against HSBC and those asserted against this tiny, new company in Colorado. Its executives were indicted, convicted and are serving sentences of 7 to 11 years. No responsible executive of HSBC has been indicted and probably no one ever will be. I suspect that they will still be with the company, possibly promoted and given bonuses without charges unless some courageous prosecutor comes along.The Congressional report concludes that not only are large financial institutions too big to fail, but apparently "too significant to be prosecuted criminally."

Not only is this an outrage and a demonstration of unequal treatment under the law, the choice always seems to be whether to fine or indict a corporation for wrongdoing, rather than a choice of indicting and punishing the individual officers responsible for the wrongdoing. As I have said many times before, corporate fines are not paid by the criminals themselves but by stockholders (some of whom may not have owned the stock at the time of the wrongdoing) and are passed on to consumers who are completely innocent. Corporate criminal conduct has to stop merely being a cost of doing business. Even if corporations are improperly designated too big to fail or be prosecuted, that is no excuse for not prosecuting those directly responsible for their crimes. They are protected and rewarded for their criminal acts. Nobody is that big!