Bank Secrecy Act

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.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel We can only aspire at this point. RT @bmaz: @SchuetteOnDuty Someday, your state too can be as enlightened as Arizona.
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @McBlondeLand @OscarPistorius @reevasteenkamp That's going to work out to about 10 months in prison, the rest on house arrest.
7mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @emptywheel @MonaHol @SchuetteOnDuty Someday, your state too can be as enlightened as Arizona.
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @amk44139 No. They already posted. No decision.
23mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @MonaHol It's like @SchuetteOnDuty WANTS Michiagnders to be backassward troglodytes or something.
23mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Hey @SchuetteOnDuty! These states are not ones MI should be happy company with. http://t.co/gy8mRPrlT3
28mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @4Dgifts And then the corporate sector peed its collective pants and they put it in an Agency w/o the expertise, right? @csoghoian
33mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Aw cmon, 6th Circuit, you're telling me WY got marriage equality before MI?
34mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @csoghoian Maybe FTC should be in charge of cybersecurity then? Or too much expertise?
52mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV With SharkNado 3 set in DC, I'm pretty sure the highlight will be a shark repossessing its heart that was stolen for Cheney's transplant.
53mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @stephenlemons @yvonnewingett @charrisazrep @GovBrewer Yes, it really is a great article. And a telling and despicable move by Brewer
59mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @ashk4n Congrats! But the WaPo will miss your great contribution.
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