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Commentary :: Labor
Banks and the New "Too Big to Jail" Doctrine
09 Apr 2014
Eric Toussaint,is a historian and political scientist. He is the President of CADTM Belgium, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the co-author, with Damien Millet of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, and the author of many essays including one on Jacques de Groote entitled "Procès d’un homme exemplaire" ("The Trial of an Exemplary Man").
to read Eric Toussaint's article published March 26,14, click on

We all know the saying, “too big to fail." The way governments have managed the crisis caused by the banks has given rise to, “too big to jail,”1 which is equally poetic!2 Although the US government let Lehman Bros. go to the wall in September 2008, no other bank has been closed or broken-up, no directors have been condemned to prison.3 The only exception in the western world is Iceland, where the courts have put three bank directors in prison. Larus Welding, the CEO of Glitnir, Iceland’s third biggest bank at the time, which went bankrupt in 2008, was condemned, in December 2012, to nine months in prison. Sigurdur Einarsson and Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, the two principal directors of Kaupthing4 were condemned to five years and five and a half years in prison in December 2013.5

A Salafi protest.

Yet, the US and European justice systems are faced with very serious wrongdoing by the biggest banks: the organised fraud committed against its customers, small shareholders, and public shareholders, money laundering from organised crime, high level tax evasion, plotting to manipulate interest rates (Euribor, Libor), exchange rates, and financial markets (CDS and Commodities), fraud and document forgery, insider trading, destroying evidence, embezzlement, complicity in war crimes,6 and the list goes on.

Eric Holder, United States Attorney General, when interrogated by a Senate Committee clearly defined the foundations of the “Too Big to Jail” doctrine, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.7

The outcome is clear. The fact that speculation and financial crime has caused the worst economic crisis for nearly a century is of little concern for justice. Even if such excesses are closely associated with large scale fraud,8 at all levels of US banking activities, these institutions have de facto authorisation to continue their operations and settle their infringements “out of court.”
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