Wall Street Banks, Money Laundering and the Drug Trade


You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone. — Al Capone

In Reckless Endangerment, a lively exposé of the frauds at the heart of the subprime meltdown, journalists Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner wrote that if “mortgage originators like NovaStar or Countrywide were the equivalent of drug pushers hanging around a schoolyard and the ratings agencies were the narcotics cops looking the other way, brokerage firms providing capital to the anything-goes lenders were the overseers of the cartel.”

Their observations are all the more relevant given the outrageous behavior by major banks which polluted an already terminally corrupt financial system with blood-spattered cash siphoned-off from the global drug trade.

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to insist that drug money laundered by financial giants like HSBC and Wachovia were in fact, little more than “hedges” designed to offset losses in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), sliced and diced into toxic collateralized debt obligations, as the 2007-2008 global economic crisis cratered the capitalist “free market.”

And like Wachovia’s ill-fated $25.5 billion (£16.96bn) buy-out of Golden West Financial/World Savings Bank at the top of the market in 2006, HSBC’s 2002 purchase of Household International and its mortgage unit, Household Finance Corporation for the then princely sum of $15.2 billion (£10.02bn) also proved to be a proverbial deal too far.

Evidence suggests that HSBC stepped up money laundering for their cartel clients as the hyperinflated real estate bubble collapsed. Along with other self-styled masters of the universe who were bleeding cash faster than you can say credit default swaps, HSBC posted 2008 projected first quarter losses of “$17.2 billion (£8.7bn) after the decline in the US housing market hit the value of its loans,” BBC News reported.

From there RMBS deficits skyrocketed. By 2010, as Senate and Justice Department investigators were taking a hard look at bank shenanigans, Reuters reported that HSBC Holdings was “working off $20 billion [£13.19bn] worth of loans per year in its US Household Finance Corp. unit” where “liabilities stood at about $70 billion [£46.17bn].”

However you slice today’s epidemic of financial corruption, a trend already clear two decades ago when economists George Akerlof and Paul Romer published their seminal paper, Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit, incentives were huge as senior bank executives inflated their balance sheets with “criminal proceeds … likely to have amounted to some 3.6 per cent of GDP (2.3-5.5 per cent) or around US$2.1 trillion in 2009,” according to a 2011 estimate by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

To make matters worse, willful criminality at the apex of the financial pyramid was aided and abetted by the US Justice Department and the federal regulatory apparatus who allowed these storied economic predators to walk.

‘Change’ that Banksters Can Believe In

In late January, Bloomberg News reported that US prosecutors have “asked a federal judge to sign off on HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s $1.9 billion [£1.2bn] settlement of charges it enabled drug cartels to launder millions of dollars in trafficking proceeds.”

Prosecutors justified the settlement on grounds that “it includes the largest-ever forfeiture in the prosecution of a bank and provides for monitoring to prevent future violations,” arguing that “strict conditions, and the unprecedented forfeiture and penalties imposed, serve as a significant deterrent against future similar conduct.”

Let’s get this sick joke straight: here’s a bank that laundered billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug lords, admittedly amongst the most violent gangsters on earth (120,000 dead Mexicans and counting since 2006) and we’re supposed to take this deal seriously. Seriously? Remember, this an institution whose pretax 2012 profits will exceed $23.5 billion (£15.63bn) when earnings are reported next week and the best the US government can do is extract a promise to “do better”–next time.

That deal, a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) was cobbled together between the outgoing head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Lanny A. Breuer and HSBC, Europe’s largest bank. At the urging of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, no criminal charges were sought–or brought–against senior bank executives.

Why might that be the case?

During a press conference trumpeting the government’s “shitty deal,” Breuer breezily declared that DOJ’s decision not to move forcefully against HSBC was in everyone’s best interest: “Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

As if allowing drug-connected money launderers license to pollute one of the world’s largest financial institutions hadn’t already “destabilized” the banking system!

Although Obama’s Justice Department smeared “lipstick” on this pig of a deal, their own “Statement of Facts” submitted to US District Judge John Gleeson paints a damning picture of criminal negligence that crossed the line into outright collusion with their Cartel clients: Read on Source link

 

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Categories: Breaking News

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