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IF BANKS ARE TOO BIG TO FAIL, IT DOESN’T MEAN THEIR LEADERS CAN’T GO TO JAIL !

December 26, 2012

IF BANKS ARE TOO BIG TO FAIL
DOES IT MEAN THEY CAN’T GO TO JAIL?

BY IRWIN BECKER

I am starting this blog because there is a growing threat from mutli-national banks to corrupt, if not destroy, the international economy by unregulated greed, arrogant rule-breaking, and more ominously, dealing with drug traffikers, terrorists and other illegal money crimes that would put any other less powerful entity either out of business or its leaders into jail.
Think Mafia, only wealthier, above the laws, unafraid of tepid government regulations, including most of the so-called protections that were adopted after 9/11.

I will list some of the more egregious felonies carried out in 2012, which in later blogs I will provide copious details and what we should do to overcome these corporate “banksters,” as one financial columnist suggested.

And as you will see from the list, the “banksters” club also contains non-financial corporations.

1. Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC), practically the largest and most profitable bank in the world. Fined $1.9 billion for violating the Bank Security Act and Trading with the Enemy Act which involved handling billions in suspected Mexican drug money transactions and aiding banks in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya, and other banks in south Asia, linked to financing terrorism.
Even more absurd, Mexico”s chief bank regulator fined HSBC $27.5 million in a money laundering probe. By the way, it took a Senate investigating committee 333 pages, including footnotes, to list HSBC’s lengthy and repeated violations. That will be my next detailed blog.
2. The LIBOR rate-fixing scandal, sort of the Watergate of international banking. The London Interbank Offered Rate is used by the international banks to set interest rates that impact mortgages, credit cards and student loans. The banks colluded to work out rates that benefited their operations, especially in the trillion-dollar markets of selling and buying financial instruments.It is expected that most of the largest banks in the world are involved. Fines have so far been assessed against:3.Barclays Bank of England–$450 million.
4.UBS of Switzerland’s Japanese subsidy–expected to reach to
one billion.
5.HSBC (world HQ in England)–Has set aside up to $1.5 billion to cover expected fines in the LIBOR scandal.
6. Standard Chartered of England. Fined $322 million for blanking out names of clients in transactions with Iran and Sudan to avoid disclosures. Those transactions are illegal under several international laws.
7.Deutsche Bank of Germany. Fined $202 million when a subsidiary used false information to get Federal mortgage insurance.
8.ING Bank (Dutch) has set aside $1.5 billion in a money laundering violation of sanctions against Iran, Libya and others.
9.Bank of America is being sued for $1 billion by the government for a multi-year scheme by the former Countrywide unit called “the hustle” to sell thousands of fraudulent and defective mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thereby costing taxpayers $1 billion in bailout losses.

Why should banks have all the fun. Here are other corporate giants recently caught in the act.

10.The European Competition Commission (some critics pronounce it ECH!) because it has no criminal prosecution powers, did slam a pile of mega fines in a price-fixing scheme involving six major international corporations who fixed prices for picture and display tubes for TVs and computers over several years. The culprits:

11.Royal Philips Electronics. 11/12:Royal Philips again with LG Electronics
13.Panasonic. 14.Samsung. 15. Toshiba. 16. Technicolor. Keep them in mind on your next electronics purchases. Rebates anyone?

Our government recently announced a multi-billion agreement, aided by many states attorneys general, with four American financial institutions to try to make up for the overwhelming illegal activities leading to the highest rate in housing foreclosures since the last real depression (what was so “great” about that fiasco?)

17-20. Ally Financial, CitiGroup, JPMorganChase and Wells Fargo are to pay $5 billion in cash plus $1.5 billion to borrowers in foreclosure, or $!,500-$2000 each. Another $20 billion to cut loan balances and refinance borrowers who are current but owe more than their homes are worth.
The four banks were chosen for their extensive illegal activities and because this off-law quartet handles 55% of outstanding home loans and 27 million mortgages in the country.

The agreement said that since 1210 the banks had serially submitted bogus mortgage documents to repossess homes. Other commentators have noted that since the market crash home prices have dropped 33 percent, real estate values have fallen by $7 trillion, leaving 11 million home owners with mortgages exceeding property values by $750 billion.

21. Amgen (biotechnology giant) plead guilty to illegally marketing its drugs, especially Aranesp and Epogen, which treat anemia. Amgen has already set aside $762 million to settle state and federal charges and 10 whistle-blower suits. In regulatory filings Amgen said the settlement would not disqualify it from still participating in Medicare and other federal programs, according to the NYK Times. A chutzpah award just in time for the holidays. Amgen agreed to pay $136 million in criminal fines, forfeit $14 million, with $612 million to settle civil cases. Aranesp was Amgen’s biggest product, bringing in $4 billion a year. But later studies questioned the drug’s effectiveness, with the drug bringing in only $1.55 billion in the first nine months of 2012.

22. GlaxoSmithKline earlier in the year was fined $3 billion in part for promoting anti depressants and other drugs for unapproved uses.

23-And finally, in what looks like a sure-fire Pulitzer for the NYK Times. In a devastating article on 12/18/12 that ran a unprecedented four pages, it showed Wal-Mart using extensive bribes to build one of its major outlets on land that Mexico was supposed to keep free of commercial development due to its proximity to ancient pyramids that are considered one of the glories of early Mexican history.
I remember when the Times broke the story in April in which Wal-Mart said it had stopped its investigation of bribery in Mexico in 2006. The company c has said since then that it is investigating reports of bribery in other parts of the world.
I end this piece, and my first listing of the most wanted, by quoting a lengthy paragraph that, for the Times, is unusually accusative and written in a style that might have come out of one of Hunter Thompson’s acerbic assaults on American corporate culture:

“The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance–public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.”

I’ll continue this exploration early next year. I’d like to hear from folks who are immersed in what looks like a growing movement that goes beyond the Occupancy and treats these issues as the next extension of the popular uprising that culminated in substantial legislation before World War I.

I don’t mind using the internet and its access but I am at still a neo-luddite who is troubled by the senseless amount of time people seem not only enamored of but mesmerized every minute of their lives by these little machines. Alas George Orwell.

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