When The Rule of Law Is Optional, There Is No Rule of Law

Is the rule of law in America a myth? Are certain people or entities above the law?

Justice statue, Law  Stock Photo - 10830392
Justice statue, Law

That justice is blind and the scales always balance is an ideal at best. I would be nice to think in our judicial system the players do their best to see that justice is served. Yet, Americans have become with good reason rather jaded in their view of America’s judicial system. It often seems that the party that can afford the best lawyers often win whether that results in justice or not. Many believe that too many criminals get off on technicalities because the rights of the accused are greater than the rights of the victims. And then, of course, we have our congress critters exempting themselves from the laws  for which the rest of us must comply.

When did paying a fine become the penalty for criminal acts?

It is probably save to say the most Americans are unaware how they get ripped off by big banks and financial institutions and the worst that happens is that they pay a fine and nobody goes to jail. For those that do pay attention it is maddening.

After the Housing Bubble-Financial collapse in 2008, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought criminal charges against several big Wall Street banks. Some of them had been bailed out with taxpayer money. To my knowledge, every case was settled out of court with no wrong doing being admitted and the institution paid a fine. One of the best known cases had to go with Goldman Sachs. Now, Goldman Sachs di not recieve any TARP bailout money directly. However, they were holding $30 billion of credit-default-swaps issued by the huge insurance underwriter AIG, which was bailed out. So, AIG turned around and handed over #20 billion of that TARP miney to Goldman Sachs. The case against Goldman Sachs was eventually settled out of court and they paid the biggest fine ever, at the time, of $500 million. That sounds like a lot of money but to Goldman Sachs it was chump change. Their partners all got multi-million dollar bonuses that year and there stock price soured on the newa.

What about the case of Jon Corzine? His company,  M F Global rip off a billion dollars from their investor’s account to try to shore up a failing entity they had in England. No charges have been brought. Corzine is still a campaign funds bundler for Barack Obama.

The latest case of criminal bankers  has to do with HSBC. This case has nothing to do with the financial collapse of 2008. Who is HSBC? It is only the third largest bank in the world. HSBC is a British bank that has branches or subsidiaries all over the world, including the United States.  What crimes has HSBC been accused of committing? They are accused of laundering money for Mexican drug cartels and doing business with Iran and other countries, for which the United States had made it illegal to do. Does HSBC deny the charges? Apparently not. So what happened?

At first glance, the British bank HSBC’s agreement to pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe seems like very good news. It is the largest penalty ever imposed on a bank; the U.S. government accused HSBC of transferring funds “through the U.S. from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of nations such as Iran that are under international sanctions.” Furthermore, the settlement is a “deferred-prosecution agreement,” which means that U.S. authorities can resume the case if HSBC does not strengthen internal oversight and avoid similar violations for the next five years. (Most settlements between big Wall Street firms and the U.S. government remove the threat of charges for the violations; the firms then make the same violations again a few years later.)

Well, $1.9 billion is a lot of money, right? Is it a lot to HSBC? Well, I don’t know that we could call it chump change, but they did report profits for the last quarter of $2.5 billion, so it is not going to cripple them. Clearly the company’s lawyers made the pitch that as a corporation, the officers are protected by corporate limited liability laws. But, those laws are not intended to protect employees of corporations when they knowingly break the law. All of the illegal actions that HSNC is accused of had to be approved by someone withh a first and last name, didn’t they? So, why was no action taken agais those people?

Despite the impressive fine, the settlement still leaves much to worry about as regards Wall Street’s disproportionate power over the government. To begin with, while smaller companies’ executives are (justly) heading to prison for money-laundering for the brutal cartels, no HSBC executives have been arrested. Worse, though, is that “too big to fail” seems to have become “too big to indict.”

Ain’t that a kick in the rump? It is one thing to make the To Big To Fail case when there is an “apparent” chance of systematic failure of all or mist of the biggest banks in the country, which could cause a complete collapse of the country’s financial system. But, when it only involves one big bank? How does that work? So what if the investors in one bank take a bath? Isn’t that the way the cookie crumbles in the risky business of investing? And, if the bank goes out of business, won’t the investor just move their money to a different bank?

When the rule of law is optional, there is no rule of law.


19 thoughts on “When The Rule of Law Is Optional, There Is No Rule of Law

  1. And the fines are money paid to the government coffers which are paid by the stock holders…you and me who may own stock or our pension funds investments. What a scam.

  2. Fortunately, I’ve never been dragged into and through the justice system.

    But I do know a few people who have. Those who could buy their way out of the charges by hiring a big-bucks attorney didn’t get much punishment — except for paying a fine that didn’t really touch their pocketbooks. Those who couldn’t afford a big-bucks attorney, well, the outcome was nothing like those who could afford to “buy” justice.

    I did once have dealings in civil court where I, the victim of a rear-end collision caused by an illegal who ran a four-way stop sign, was told by the court: “The sympathies of the court lie with the poor immigrant. If this accident had occurred the other way around, he’d be taking you to the cleaners.” So, no justice for me! Never mind that I sustained permanent injury that prevents me from ever again working full time.

    BTW, the illegal who ruined my back in that collision in 2005 had been under a deportation order since the early 1980s — yet was driving a taxi cab, a Yellow Cab. I kid you not! The cab company was not liable — another of those loopholes, I guess.

  3. “Is the rule of law in America a myth?”


    “Are certain people or entities above the law?”


    We have the best government money can buy. Just ask the politically-connected

  4. Another case that comes to mind is the Wachovia company who was laundering drug money from London to Miami. The Guardian did an article on it and they also paid some paltry fine that wouldn’t really set you back.

    1. The Guardian (the old communist sympathizer “The Manchester Guardian”) is representative of what can be worse than banks – the socialist press of Europe.

      1. Regardless, Wachovia was fined – the laundering did happen, it is a matter of public record. The man who blew the whistle lost his job over it. Who do you thing bankrolls the newspapers? The big banks. That’s why its remarkable that these stories get out at all.

  5. The rule of law was really the only thing separating us from a Banana Republic. Without a rule of law, the system implodes and ultimately- the rich and wealthy can escape the consequences of law. The legal system is corrupted in behalf of the rich and influential. In days gone by, the lynch mob would have taken care of guys like Corzine and it might again. Lynch mobs thrive in banana republics.

    The problem with all of this is that nobody demands better. We have this insanely apathetic public who doesn’t give two shits about anything until it directly effects them. So this gets far worse before anybody notices.

    I’ve seen the moral decay and de-evolution in the US in my lifetime. We are very good at locking up nickel and dime criminals for virtually nothing- when the greatest thefts of my life happen- like the one Corzine committed and he just waltzes away. Look at Benghazi- your leaders let those people die without ordering any help whatsoever.

    You can’t tell me that those guys weren’t sacrificed for a Presidential campaign. It’s a very sick country we have.

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