The Obama administration officially bought into the idea that big banks are "too big to jail" yesterday, by deciding to fine HSBC instead of criminally prosecuting its vast money laundering operation—which funneled cash to Mexican drug cartels and Saudi banks with ties to al-Qaeda. The stated reason? The White House thought prosecution would upset markets. "It is a dark day for the rule of law," the New York Times laments in an editorial today. If prosecutors can't pursue "a case as egregious as this, the law itself is diminished."
Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian is even more outraged, pointing out that "the US is the world's largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on Earth." The poor, and racial minorities in particular are locked up at an astonishing rate, often for minor drug offenses. Yet HSBC gets off the hook. "It is truly difficult to imagine corruption and lawlessness more extreme than having the government explicitly place the most powerful factions above the rule of law." Click for Greenwald's full column, or the Times' editorial. (Read more HSBC stories.)