The New Measure of DOJ Seriousness: The Charges It Defers

In an article on the upcoming HSBC settlement, Reuters seems impressed with the fine the bank may pay for the assistance it gave to drug gangs and terrorists and other crooks by  laundering their money: $1.8 billion. It goes on to talk about “how big a signal” DOJ wants to send with this settlement.

The emphasis, of course, should be on that word “settlement.” One that will likely result in a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, in which no one gets charged, not even for the egregious conduct HSBC engaged in.

Because ultimately, Reuters is measuring this big signal by the seriousness of the criminal charges DOJ doesn’t file.

In regulatory filings, HSBC has said it could face criminal charges. But similar U.S. investigations have culminated in deferred prosecution deals, where law-enforcement agencies delay or forgo prosecuting a company if it admits wrongdoing, pays a fine and agrees to clean up its compliance systems. If the company missteps again, the Justice Department could prosecute.

[snip]

The agreements “have become a mainstay of white collar criminal law enforcement,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in September during an appearance at the New York City Bar Association.

“I’ve heard people criticize them and I’ve heard people praise them. DPAs have had a truly transformative effect on particular companies and, more generally, on corporate culture across the globe.”

If U.S. prosecutors agree to a deferred agreement, they still could wield a powerful legal tool by accusing the bank of laundering money.

That would be a much more serious charge than if prosecutors, in a deferred agreement, charged HSBC with criminal violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, a law that requires banks to maintain programs that root out suspicious transactions.

[snip]

A charge of money laundering would be a rare move by the Justice Department and would send a signal to other big banks that the agency is intent on cracking down on dirty money moving through the U.S. financial system. [my emphasis]

No, seriously. A legitimate report just said that DOJ will send “a signal” based on ratcheting up the seriousness of the crimes it makes disappear with one of Lanny Breuer’s flaccid DPAs. It will send “a signal” with the seriousness of the charges it will effectively excuse.

Heck. If we’re not going to really charge these banksters, why not add on murder or drug trafficking or terrorism charges, or any of the other crimes they abetted? That would really send “a signal” now, wouldn’t it, deferring even more serious charges that real people would do hard time for?

The Senate has already accused HSBC of money laundering. But mere accusations–even with promises to do better–do nothing.

No matter how serious a charge those accusations involve excusing.

Tweet about this on Twitter8Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook4Google+0Email to someone

6 Responses to The New Measure of DOJ Seriousness: The Charges It Defers

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz RT @JasonLeopold: Execution in Arizona Is Approved by Justices. Scheduled for Wednesday. http://t.co/VmgjiE1MWm
48mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @cocktailhag Sounds like a fair addition to me.
59mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Also in the totally awesome to meet at #NN2014 department: @StephanieKelton @NadiaKayyali and @alexisgoldstein
3hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @RaysBaseball: That moment when a pitcher who hasn't batted since high school executes a perfect safety squeeze. @JakeOdorizzi http://t.…
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Despite their limited stay no two more fun+incredibly awesome people I finally personally met at #NN2014 than @astepanovich + @McElweeWhite
4hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @TBTimes_Rays: You can only hope to contain #Rays C Jose Molina, who swiped his 3rd bag of the season at the back end of a double steal.…
4hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @ArifCRafiq: Please also visit Gaza. MT @MikeBloomberg This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to demonstrate that it is safe…
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @WilliamOckhamTx Pretty much that whole area of the world appears to be GohmertLand.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz The only way in the world @John_Dingell could earn more love is to say he doesn't know similarly worthless chumps Kanye West, JayZ+Beyonce.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz I have never been prouder of @John_Dingell in my life than him not knowing squat about the worthless Kardashian idiot clan.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @onekade: The rockets are extremely dangerous and horrible but also Israel is open for business as usual, nothing to fear! Ok
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz It appears the Ukranian government has the combined credibility of Peter King and Steve Stockman. #GoodEnoughForJoshEarnestAndCNN
5hreplyretweetfavorite
December 2012
S M T W T F S
« Nov   Jan »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031