It Takes a Plan (To End ‘Too Big to Jail’)

“If you only look at the big banks, you will be missing the forest for the trees,” said Hillary Clinton in the debate last night, responding to calls to break up the major banks.  Corporate crime is a broader problem touching every industry and not just Wall Street. Clinton has proposed for the first time a top-to-bottom plan for policing and preventing corporate crime and financial misconduct. We have not seen the likes of it in this campaign or elsewhere. The plan addresses systemic risk in financial institutions, or “too big to fail,” but my interest is in “too big to jail”: the way the plan carefully addresses concerns that companies and banks commit massive crimes but receive mere slaps on the wrist.

We are experiencing a corporate crime wave. Billion-dollar fines are now common in industries ranging from Big Pharma to the largest banks to energy companies. Yet we just saw GM receive an out-of-court deal for concealing defects that cost over a hundred people their lives — and no charges for any employees. We have seen banks like AIG, Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC, JPMorgan, Lloyds, UBS and others prosecuted over and over again — typically with no charges for any employees. After the financial crisis, we saw compromised deals with banks, failures to prosecute individuals and legislation that did not generate serious accountability...

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