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Too big to jail? Execs avoid laundering charges

Wednesday - 12/19/2012, 2:20am  ET

FILE - This May 11, 2012, file photo shows the corporate logo for HSBC hangs on a wall outside an office for the London-based multinational bank in New York. When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement against British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico's murderous drug cartels. But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

CHRISTINA REXRODE
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement against British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico's murderous drug cartels.

But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives, at least in part on the rationale that such prosecutions could be devastating enough to cause such banks to fail.

They say it sounds a lot like the "too big to fail" meme that kept big but sickly banks alive on the support of taxpayer-funded bailouts. In these cases, they call it, "Too big to jail."

"Shame on the Department of Justice. Shame on them," said Jimmy Gurul
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