Target: Eric Holder, Attorney General of the Department of Justice
Goal: Prosecute the HSBC bankers involved in laundering millions of dollars of drug cartel money.
In most of United States, possession of few grams of most illicit substances may very well land you jail time. However, laundering several hundred million dollars for drug cartels will cost you no more than a fine—albeit a hefty fine. This is the case with the international bank HSBC, which was recently fined $1.92 billion by the United States Treasury Department for its involvement in laundering $881 million of drug cartel money through several countries the U.S. has economic sanctions on. This leaves one asking: how can petty criminals possibly wind up in jail when their white collar counterparts get away scot-free? This was precisely the question Senator Elizabeth Warren found herself asking the Treasury Department during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday.
At the meeting, Senator Warren drilled members of the Treasury and Federal Reserve. Her question was simple: at what point does laundering money and violating US sanctions translate into prosecution and the shutting down of a financial institution? Despite the simplicity of the question, members of the Treasury and the Reserve rebuffed her, preferring no to be drawn into a “hypothetical line-drawing exercise.” Moreover, they claimed that prosecution was the domain of the Department of Justice. According to Reserve member Jerome H. Powell, such a proceeding would be undertaken after criminal conviction.
With responses like these it is clear that the members of the Treasury and the Reserve are being willfully ignorant or seem to miss the point the Senator was making; that, the magnitude of the crimes committed by HSBC is so great that to question whether criminal proceedings should take place or not is ludicrous. Given the heavy handed approach of U.S. courts in dealing with petty drug convictions it seems only rational to assume a heavier hand with the bigger culprits. As Warren stated, “evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night, [like] every single individual associated with this.” Sign the petition below to show your support for prosecuting bankers involved in laundering drug money and violating sanctions.
Dear Attorney General Eric Holder,
HSBC bank was recently fined $1.92 billion for involvement in laundering drug money and violating U.S. sanctions. While the Treasury and the Federal Reserve doled out the statuary maximum for this transgression, no individual was prosecuted for their involvement in servicing drug cartels. This is completely unacceptable.
Given the heavy handed approach to conviction and sentencing of U.S. courts for drug possession and trafficking, it seems only fair to approach white collar drug crimes with the same approach. Bankers and financial professionals must not be allowed to walk away from their crimes with what amounts to a slap on the wrist. Do the right thing and prosecute all those involved in these sorts of clandestine activities.
[Your Name here]
Photo credit: z-monster via deviantART