We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How Many Billions Of Drug-Laundered Money Does It Take To Shut Down A Bank?

Click here to access article by Tyler Durden from Zero Hedge.

This article from a website devoted to economic and financial information and analysis is one of the best (see also this piece from Naked Capitalism) that I could find providing coverage of the recent Senate committee (Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs) hearings about the weakness of enforcement measures that have been taken by regulatory agencies of the US government against banks who have engaged in massive money laundering for the drug cartels and other banking law violations. The senators specifically focused on the meager fine imposed upon HSBC, a British based bank, of about 1% of its earnings during the time that it was engaged in laundering of drug money. This type of fine on the major banks for the most egregious crimes is very typical.

After these articles piqued my interest in the hearings, I found a link to a video of the actual hearings which I found to be much more enlightening. In contrast to the two recommended links above and other liberal website coverage, sections of the video past the opening statements of the banking regulators offered strong reinforcement for my understanding of the US power structure. I specifically recommend that you watch the video from 48:00m to 1:35m (47 minutes) or as much as you have time for. Also, read what one commentator ("fraud guy") wrote in response to the Naked Capitalism article.

You will see Senate members (who are identified only by their names) asking questions of three regulators who are addressed as Hon. David S. Cohen, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (Treasury Dept.); Hon. Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency under the Treasury Department; and Hon. Jerome H. Powell, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. At 48:00m Sen. Elizabeth Warren, freshman senator from Massachusetts asks the most aggressive questions followed by other senators asking their questions as to why the regulators have not imposed any significant sanctions on banks or banking officials for some of the worst crimes. 

One small section (1:28:50) particularly interested me where Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon asked about a specific feature of the Bank Secrecy Act which allows banks to use wire transfers of money without disclosing the source of the money. Talk about a loophole that banks can drive their illicit money delivery trucks through!! And, this is what they have been doing, and are likely to   continue to do.

What I generally saw was a strong power difference between the senators compared with the three bank regulators. Although they had to answer questions from the senators, they exuded much more power by simply refusing to give direct answers of substance to the senators who reacted with frustration and a sense of resignation. See if you agree.

You see, two of the regulators were from the Treasury Department which, as is currently the case under Timothy Geithner, is usually headed by a major member of the ruling One Percent who have close ties to major banks. The other guest was from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Thus, what you have are lowly senators whose elections are funded mostly by major industrial and financial corporations trying to get answers from top representatives of these very powerful institutions about banking crimes and why the go essentially unpunished. Hence, their sense of frustration and resignation.