I know it was only a month ago that I was advocating the No-Maximum Mega Fines, but I’m now of the opinion that it’s not enough. First of all, in most circumstances, the fines are not anywhere close to keeping pace with the magnitude of the ill-gotten gains the corporate fat cats are often making when they choose to break the law. And, secondly, since the dastardly are often convinced that they probably won’t get caught, and, if they do, it will be so far down the line that they will already have made, and covered up, a fortune and the losses won’t come close to equaling the gains, they’re not going to stop unless things change significantly.
So what really grinds my gears this time? Why do I want to go all Stewie on their backsides? And throw psycho kitty into the boardroom? (Warning: Links Probably NSFW) This recent article in the Economist on an unsettling settlement where Standard Chartered agreed to a rapid settlement of the case brought against it by the New York State Department of Financial Services that alleged Standard Chartered had illicitly processed at least $250 Billion in transactions with Iran between 2001 and 2007, in (flagrant) violation of American sanctions against Iran.
In other words, if you cough up a big enough chunk of change, and agree to the installation of a monitor in its New York branch to evaluate its money-laundering controls, you can get away with pretty much anything.
Now, it might be the case that not all of the 250 Billion in transactions were illicit, as there may have been some transactions with similar characteristics that got caught in the initial sieve, but state departments are not likely to claim more than they think they can prove, and collect on. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were 200 Billion in illicit payments, and that the bank made around 4 Billion (or more) on these transfers, given usual currency conversion and wire fees, and that the 340 Million represented, at most, 10% of the illicit gains.
But it’s not the fact that the agreement didn’t wipe out all the illicit gains that is making me mad, but the fact that this is clearly a situation where someone repeatedly did something they knew they should not be doing (and thus settled quickly to avoid trouble). Now, it’s one thing if someone does something wrong and doesn’t know it, which is getting more likely by the day in a global multi-national when new laws are coming into effect all the time and it’s almost impossible to keep on top of everything, but it’s not going to be long before someone in legal or risk or compliance notices the infraction and brings it to the organization’s intention. At that point, the infractions should end, or the individual who continues to commit the infractions should be criminally prosecuted. Until the day comes when the worst that will happen to you from knowingly breaking the law behind the corporate veil is a small fine to your company is replaced with automatic criminal prosecution for your crime, nothing is going to change.
In summary, all I have to say is that Skid Row got it right when they said to tear down the rat racial slime and that Halestorm was right to echo their belief and the need to tear this thorn from our side. These rat bastards, who fly in the face of all that is good and just, need to be to be taken down a peg or two and do some hard time. If they knowingly violate contraband laws, embargoes, or laws meant to enhance national security, they should be convicted of treason and sent to maximum security. Because, until that happens, they’re going to keep flaunting the law for the almighty dollar.