A new report [PDF] from the House Financial Services Committee, which explores the Justice Department’s conduct in relation to the megabank HSBC, proves once-and-for-all what many had long suspected: former Attorney General and perpetual Wall Street lawyer Eric Holder was always committed to a “Too Big To Jail” policy for the large Wall Street banks.
Holder had articulated much of his thinking on Too Big To Jail at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, when he said, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them … When we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps world economy, that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large. It has an inhibiting impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate.”
Though Holder tried to walk back some of his admission, his actions (or inactions) as Attorney General made it clear this was his policy. It would be hard to find a greater example of this policy in action than the Department of Justice’s handling of HSBC after it was revealed that the bank had been engaging in widespread money laundering for Mexican drug cartels and Islamic terrorists.
The report shows that officials within the Justice Department wanted to bring prosecutions against HSBC in 2012 after the bank was caught laundering nearly $900 million for drug traffickers, terrorists, and countries under US sanctions, but were ultimately stymied and forced to accept a weak deferred prosecution settlement, which left senior bank executives untouched by Holder and other DOJ senior leadership.
To repeat, officials within the Justice Department recommended prosecuting HSBC for its massive money laundering scheme, and Holder and friends overruled them. According to the report, senior DOJ officials justified their decision because they believed prosecuting HSBC “could result in a global financial disaster.” In other words, HSBC was Too Big To Jail.
The corruption among US prosecutors and regulators when it comes to Wall Street is now simply comical. It seems the best method to getting away with a crime in this country is to commit it on a grand scale.
But don’t worry, even those overruled by Holder landed on their feet. Jennifer Shasky, who headed the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS), which made a recommendation to prosecute HSBC, now works as a well-paid Wall Street compliance officer for HSBC.
Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.