The decision by the Department of Justice to not pursue criminal charges against British banking giant HSBC for fostering money-laundering schemes on a massive scale continues an unfair pattern of “hands off” when it comes to Too Big To Fail banks (“Too big to jail? Execs avoid laundering charges” Sunday Advocate Dec. 12.) HSBC was allowed to pay a fine of $1.92 billion, which their enablers in the DOJ, Treasury Department and Congress trumpeted to show how “serious” they are about corruption. What a joke!
A billion-dollar fine is eye-catching, but in truth it amounts to only a few weeks’ earnings for a financial behemoth that measures its assets in the trillions. HSBC moved vast sums of cash for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, and provided services for the likes of Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Libya. The management of HSBC defied a cease-and-desist order, yet they get off with a fine, albeit a rather large one, because it was determined that arrests in the HSBC money-laundering scandal would threaten the stability of the financial system. Once Too Big To Fail, now these financial giants are Too Big to Jail!
Meanwhile, community banks are under the gun from examiners to comply with the jots and tittles of the Bank Secrecy Act, lest their boards and officers face personal financial ruin from civil money penalties and criminal charges. The risks of wrongdoing in a community bank affecting the stability and safety of our nation is low, yet the consequences in personal terms is infinitely more severe.
A dangerous relationship exists between Washington and Wall Street. Rules are written to allow the Too Big to just get bigger, and now the top 10 banks control approximately half of all the deposits in the United States. Large banks routinely are involved in scandalous behavior, and then transgressions are lawyered down to manageable numbers that these megabanks consider to be just the cost of doing business. Lawmakers and regulators react to public outcry with even more laws and regulations which are strangling community banks as they struggle to build mutually beneficial relationships on Main Streets across America.
Too Big To Fail. Too Big To Jail. The problem is obvious, but the solution demands the political will to break up these greedy and corrupt giants that threaten to engulf our financial system.
Preston L. Kennedy
president and chief executive officer
Bank of Zachary
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