It becomes more and more obvious with each passing month that our government is mainly concerned with protecting financial interests, even when those interests work against the will and welfare of its citizens. Our government is acting like a business that’s in partnership with Wall Street and the banks. It also appears as if our government has granted these financial institutions some sort of special first class citizen status. Meanwhile, we the real citizens of this country are governed primarily with rules designed to make sure that we serve and not obstruct the big corporations.
How many billions of dollars of blood money does a bank have to launder for drug lords and how many sanctions does a bank have to violate before someone will consider shutting it down?
In a video posted on YouTube Thursday by Senator Elizabeth Warren, she asks versions of this question over and over and over again at a Senate Banking Committee hearing called “Patterns of Abuse: Assessing Bank Secrecy Act Compliance and Enforcement.” She’s talking to Treasury Department officials who repeatedly attempt to dodge her question.
Watching the video is like watching some Monty Python parody of a TV game show called Pass the Buck. Even when Warren defers to their protests that they have no authority to close banks and asks them to merely state their personal opinion, they continue to evade. Eventually it begins to appear they’re defending themselves by claiming to be just following orders.
HSBC was the bank in question, a bank which admitted in court late last year that they were involved in the laundering of $881 million for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. In addition, they admitted to continually violating sanctions against Libya, Iran, Burma and the Sudan. For this they were fined (“…the maximum!” Treasury officials said proudly) but remain in business in the U.S.
In other words, HSBC gets a slap on the wrist and it’s back to business as usual–both for the bank and for the drug cartels.
Four and a half years ago, when Obama was running for his first term, he promised time and again that he would see it as his duty to make sure that “Main Street” took precedence over “Wall Street.” This is yet another promise that he has broken.
We are lucky to have the likes of Elizabeth Warren in the Senate. However, she could do more good if she had meaningful support from Pennsylvania Avenue.