The law can’t touch them at all

“Too big to prosecute” is the recurring headline this week after Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarkable statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday:

“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.”

Where to begin? “Too big to fail” is one thing, but to say these institutions are too big to clean up their act is another. The attorney general seems to be implying that the big banks are more important than the laws themselves. It is one thing to say that the outright collapse of these institutions would bring economic ruin. It is quite another to assume that prosecuting criminal acts by them or some of their employees would also bring ruin.

Skeptics have long called the big banks “too big to prosecute” because their lavish campaign contributions give them unparalleled access and influence in Washington, but Holder’s remarks point to something more insidious: ideological capture. When cabinet officials are products of Wall Street or, worse, credulously believe Wall Street claims that their firms are delicate life-giving flowers that must never be disturbed, we have a problem that won’t go away anytime soon.

Fortunately, several members of Congress, including Republicans David Vitter and Charles Grassley and Democrats Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, are pushing back. Vitter and Brown have co-sponsored a bill to limit the size of the big banks. But we have been here before, as recently as 2010, when a similar bill lost by a vote of 61-33 and was opposed by the Obama administration. Until further notice, it’s hard to disagree with these words of Huey Long from 1932:

“They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.”

The law can’t touch them at all.

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3 Responses to “The law can’t touch them at all”

  1. Tracy Goodwin Says:

    I am simply amazed that they were willing to say it. For long time people knew that the wealthy were treated differently by the law. But to outright state publicly that prosecution of financial institutions are immune to the law is unbelievable. On top of that it is sure to embolden other institutions to break the law because they know they have immunity to criminal prosecution.

  2. democommie Says:

    Both Vitter and Grassley are nuts, both are also teabaggists. Stopped clock and all that, though, they’re at least semi-correct on this.

  3. Mark E. Says:

    Holder’s comments may be most disturbing because he can now say them without real repercussions. Yes, they may now be even too big to jail, much less fail, simply because they now officially own the system. It’s going to take a coordinated multinational approach to take on these global corporations and that is a daunting predicament.

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