A collective timid mindset

William M. Palmer, Esq’s sad but insightful comment on too-big-to-fail:

” There is a general avoidance of charging high-placed individuals in this Justice Department – a culmination of a trend that has been in place for more than a decade.
I was a federal prosecutor in the 1990s (Public Integrity Section and two USAOs), and I find the government’s systematic avoidance of charging executives whose companies have committed egregious criminal wrongdoing to be shameful-and a detriment to society. In my view, this reflects regulatory capture by the elites, here in part instantiated by the fact that many DOJ attorneys plan to take white-shoe law firm jobs that pay extraordinarily well-those being positions in which 99% of their clients will be corporations and corporate executives. It is hard to get potential clients to warm up to you when you have a history of aggressively putting their contemporaries in prison.
Another contributing factor is a fear of charging cases that might go to trial. One almost always can point to a defense that a capable attorney might offer to a jury, and top tier executives will generally hire superb attorneys. And the government will occasionally lose even when it should win (see Roger Clemens trial). This gives higher-ups a theoretical basis not to prosecute a case even though the wrongdoing is evident and it would be in society’s interest to go forward. In short, there is a collective timid mindset that serves to protect the deciders, their institutions and their careers – but lets down us as a people.”

His comment was inspired by this NY Times opinion piece, HSBC – Too Big to Indict

It is a dark day for the rule of law. Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system. They also have not charged any top HSBC banker in the case, though it boggles the mind that a bank could launder money as HSBC did without anyone in a position of authority making culpable decisions.

If voters and consumers are willing to tolerate ‘too-big-to-fail’, then the collective timid mindset is not limited to the lawyers.

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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