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Too big to jail? Execs avoid laundering charges

December 18, 2012 • Business


FILE – In this Dec. 11, 2012, file photo, Lanny Breuer, center, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, addresses a news conference in New York’s Brooklyn borough to announce British bank HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion to settle a New York based-probe in connection with the laundering of money from narcotics traffickers in Mexico. Among those joining Breuer is Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen, left. When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement against British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico’s murderous drug cartels. But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement against British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico’s murderous drug cartels.

But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives, at least in part on the rationale that such prosecutions could be devastating enough to cause such banks to fail.

They say it sounds a lot like the “too big to fail” meme that kept big but sickly banks alive on the support of taxpayer-funded bailouts. In these cases, they call it, “Too big to jail.”

“Shame on the Department of Justice. Shame on them,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Notre Dame.

“These are actions that facilitated major international drug cartels to continue their operations,” he said. Login to read more

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