Sen. Warren flags double-standard for criminal prosecutions of banks

March 7, 2013

Massachusetts’ rookie Senator Elizabeth Warren was out making waves again at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill today. The former Harvard law professor contrasted the legal code affecting drug prosecutions with what she depicted as cushy settlements for large Wall Street firms that committed egregious crimes.

Take Standard Chartered. They were fined $667 million by U.S. regulators for breaching sanctions related to Iran and three other countries. Yet the bank posted a tenth straight year of record profits.

If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.

For an alternate reality where white collar criminals face the same legal system as drug dealers, see this episode of Chappelle’s show.

 

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“Shut that ****ing dog up!”

It was a great episode, to be sure. And senator Warren makes an excellent point. Fines should be commesnsurate to both the crimes and the profits garnered from them, but also, people should go to prison. What other possible disincentive can we offer CEOs et al. to put law before money? And yes, imprisoning CEO’s does make a difference. A good one, too.

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