“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” ~Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company.
I am trying to figure out why people in the UK and US are so angry with their government. Well, one reason is the awful financial mess (e.g., national debt). But I sense an even deeper anger and distrust. To me, not being able to trust one’s own leaders is the ultimate in disenfranchisement and the precursor to far worse things to come.
I believe this mistrust of government comes from the apparent (real?) double standard in relation to how laws and criminal activities are prosecuted. If one group is given special (lenient) treatment, because of their status or wealth, while the majority are prosecuted to the letter of the law, then it is easy to see how mistrust can arise.
Here’s a perfect case in point. Recently, HSBC Bank was fined $1.9 billion for criminal offences involving illegally laundering drug money through their banks.
According to an official government statement: “HSBC is being held accountable for stunning failures of oversight — and worse — that led the bank to permit narcotics traffickers and others to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC subsidiaries, and to facilitate hundreds of millions more in transactions with sanctioned countries,” Lanny A. Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement.
A large monetary fine, as you would expect. But it seems to many that this is criminal activity, considering it went on for over 5 years. Not just a one-off accidental slip-up. And most criminals wind up, if found guilty, in prison doing time. However, at a recent news conference in Brooklyn, Mr. Breuer defended the decision to opt for a settlement (monetary fine), rather than seeking an indictment against the bank, calling the $1.9 bn fine “a very just, very real and very powerful result.”
Okay, to most of us on the street a $ 1.9 billion fine is hugely significant. But I don’t think it even makes a dent in the coffers of HSBC, which reported a $21.9 bn profit in 2011. As one commentator stated, this is simply a “rap on the knuckles” for HSBC.
The good news? HSCB apologised. “We accept responsibility for our past mistakes,” Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive of HSBC, said in a statement. “We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again. The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organization from the one that made those mistakes.”
So, what if the average company or small business were caught laundering drug money and terrorist money? Would they just get a fine and then be allowed to go back to business as usual? Not! Most US states put people convicted of writing a “bad check” (having Non-Sufficient Funds to cover the check = forgery) in prison for months to years. But laundering hundreds of millions for terrorists and drug lords and all they get is a monetary fine?
I was trolling through the internet blog traffic on this incident and came upon this quote. I think it is a fair and honest expression of the average citizen (the majority): “If the people who run these banks are never going to be properly investigated and, where necessary, prosecuted for criminal negligence, then what is going to stop all this happening again and again? At the very least these bankers should lose their jobs, their huge pensions and be banned for life from working in the financial sector.”
There are the rights of leadership, and there should also be the responsibilities. Accountability is a two-way street!
What do you think?
John R Childress