Is the New York Times’s Dealbook Dead Yet?

Today’s New York Times lacks news coverage of the delicious prospect that a federal judge may be blocking the December 2012 civil settlement with the Justice Department that allowed HSBC executives to skate without criminal consequences, even though the megabank admitted laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.

Meanwhile, the paper’s financial gossip column, Dealbook, serves up a press release for the Treasury Department on the HSBC case. Author Ben Protess backs the ridiculous self-rationalizations made in a (conveniently obtained) internal Treasury report that since only Justice can indict, Treasury was right to take no position on whether to prosecute executives at the notorious money laundering entities HSBC and Standard Chartered. Treasury’s neutrality helped assure Justice would not indict.

Protess gets into double-talk about how aggressively Treasury pursued the civil settlement with HSBC — i.e., how Treasury effectively backed the government consensus not to prosecute the criminal bankers. Also, Treasury thinks it was unsporting of this Ben Lawsky guy, who regulates banks in New York State, to threaten to pull Standard Chartered’s license to do crime. They don’t like him.

Get this: “The Justice Department has explained that it follows guidelines requiring prosecutors to weigh indictments of businesses with ‘collateral consequences’ like job losses and, in the case of big banks, a threat to the economy. And in a recent letter to Congress, the department explained that it has ‘contacted relevant government agencies to discuss such issues,’ including federal regulators.”

Excuse the New York talk, but are you fucking kidding me?! Think of all the good-paying no-show jobs lost here in Queens when they took down a relatively small-change gangster like John Gotti! It turns out that John Gleeson, the judge who is troubling the HSBC deal, was also the prosecutor who finally got Gotti convicted.

On Treasury’s point man in the HSBC case, David S. Cohen, whom the Dealbook piece treats with affection, let’s recall:

Meet David S. Cohen of Treasury and Stuart Levey of HSBC – Or Is It the Other Way Around?

Why Are We Picketing at the Citigroup Shareholders’ Meeting?

YES, WE WILL! PICKET CITIGROUP SHAREHOLDERS’ ANNUAL MEETING!
Outside the Hilton Hotel, Sixth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets.
Wednesday, April 24th at 8-10 am.

Event Listings:

Some things take intolerably long to change. The following was written almost a year ago for “Occupy the Citi,” which was a “Day of Public Outrage and Education” held by Occupy Astoria LIC at the “other” Citigroup Tower, the one in Queens. The text needs only minor changes – we turn “four years” into five, switch the name of the suit at the top from Pandit to Corbat – and presto! It’s as timely as ever; a sad truth. This is why Occupy Wall Street is still protesting Citigroup next Wednesday morning. This time we’ll be at the annual shareholders’ meeting. (Note: Following views and opinions belong to Nicholas Levis. Blame him.)


Why Occupy the Citi? What Are Our Grievances?

Five years ago, Citigroup and other major Wall Street banks became insolvent as a result of their own predatory and reckless actions in the mortgage-backed security and derivatives markets. This caused the most dramatic financial crash since 1929.

The institutions responsible for the resulting global depression and worldwide misery constitute a public danger. They should have been liquidated. The executives should have been fired and subjected to criminal investigation. A banking system that causes such a disaster should have been reinvented.

Instead, a government corrupted by Wall Street money decided that the insolvent “zombie banks” were “Too Big To Fail” (TBTF). While smaller and often more solvent banks were allowed to go bankrupt, the TBTFs were rescued with trillions of dollars from taxpayers and the Federal Reserve.

Citigroup alone received $45 billion in direct cash bailouts from the Treasury – the taxpayers – and was privileged with an incredible total of $2.5 trillion in near-zero interest loans (GAO-11-696, p. 131) as well as additional guarantees from the Federal Reserve. Together, the TBTF banks received more than $13 trillion in bailouts from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, and ongoing potential taxpayer exposure on all government guarantees for banks to date exceeds $3.5 trillion. [Note: In the year since this was first written, much has been made of how banks have "paid off" TARP or other bailouts, without noting the continuing exposure in case of future failure, or asking: Why were criminal institutions entitled to a bailout in the first place?]

Since the crisis, while the Federal Reserve discount window has offered the TBTFs loans at almost zero percent interest, the big banks have also been able to buy Treasury bills paying 3 percentage points higher. In other words, the US government is providing free money and free profit to the TBTFs, helping to keep them afloat. Furthermore, in 2009 the government suspended “mark to market” accounting rules for banks, which means that banks can value their assets at ideal value, rather than at the prices actually available on the market. In short, banks are allowed to cook their books so that they can look solvent.

Because they were bailed out, the TBTFs were able to continue foreclosing on individual debtors, for whom no effective rescue has been offered.

Because We the People were forced to rescue banks like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, today they continue to pay exorbitant bonuses to the executives who helped to crash the world.

Thanks to taxpayer money, Citigroup and its siblings can continue to pay for an army of lobbyists in Washington and influence legislators with campaign donations. Citigroup was #3 among the 10 biggest corporate campaign contributors in U.S. politics over a 20-year period, just behind Goldman Sachs. Its spending peaked during the crash year of 2008, in the run-up to receiving its bailouts. Citi’s biggest recipients in the 2010 election cycle included our New York senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Queens Congressman Joseph Crowley. This doesn’t count Citi’s spending on lobbyists in Washington, which totaled $62 million from 2001 to 2010.

Thanks to the TBTF doctrine, Citigroup can still buy favorable PR by purchasing endless ad time to tell us of its supposed charitable works, and, incidentally, by sponsoring our beloved New York Mets.

How does Citigroup show its gratitude for the federal rescue? In 2010, Citigroup declared $4 billion in profits and paid no federal income tax. In fact, it received a $1.9 billion tax refund. (Similar numbers apply in the cases of Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.)

During the final phase of the housing bubble, Citigroup was one of several institutions known to have conned investors into buying securities that were designed to fail, even as they bet against the same securities they were selling. When the government found evidence of one such multi-billion-dollar fraud, however, no one was prosecuted. Instead, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked Citi to pay a penalty worth only a fraction of the amount defrauded from the investors: a mere business expense. The SEC settlement – which for now has been blocked by a courageous judge – did not even require Citigroup to acknowledge wrongdoing.

Today, the Wall Street banks bailed out by the public continue to profit from predatory actions. In a system where money controls politics, Wall Street is above the law… (continued)

Continue reading

News Roundup For Weekly Meeting (3/24)

2 pm – Pre-Meeting Presentation:
“Workers’ Coops, Web Payments & Industrial Credit”

With Nick P. (Karl Trotsky of venturecommunism.com), who asks: “How do we bootstrap an alternative banking system based in real production? What are some of the possibilities given emerging web payments standards?” Nick P. recommends you watch the following video if you get a chance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nORI8r3JIyw#t=14m35s

3-5 pm – Main Meeting!
Followed by dinner/drinks at Amsterdam, 120th & Amsterdam

Here are some current news stories we might discuss:

JPM London Whale – Indictments Coming? Cathy says she’s in the middle of the Senate Whale Report. “It’s crazy fascinating, you should all read it,” she says. On Friday, CNBC reported that the Department of Justice “is in advanced stages of a probe into the so-called London Whale traders… looking deeply… at whether certain trades mismarked intentionally and… hid losses, all of which could be the basis for a securities fraud claim of… criminal nature.”

HSBC Reports. If you can’t get enough of that sort of thing, and given our pickets at HSBC, isn’t time we all read the May 2012 Levin Senate Committee report on HSBC money laundering (executive summary here) and, of course, the December 2012 HSBC settlement with the Justice Department? (Download the four documents here. DOJ press release here.)

Cyprus, continuing crisis. See the post on our blog for links to a primer and analyses of how it developed. As I wrote on Wednesday, however, “it’s all dating fast as the situation unfolds. The people took to the streets, cabinet members resigned, and condemnations are coming from Russia (where many of the depositors actually live). [Tuesday], with the bank holiday in its second day, the Parliament rejected the first bailout plan with no one voting for it.” Since then, as per this coverage in the Guardian, the parliament passed nine new bills imposing controls on capital movement, limiting withdrawals, converting current accounts to time deposits, etc. The bank holiday continues into next week. The EU has set a new ultimatum of Monday for a vote on the bailout deal, which will involve a levy on deposits but no longer on the below the standard insured amount of 100,000 euros. (Coincidentally, right in the middle of this first-ever possible euro exit crisis, the French police raided IMF chief Christine Lagarde’s apartment in Paris as part of an investigation into corruption charges against the government of former President Sarkozy, in which Lagarde was the finance minister.)

Deregulating Derivatives? What could go wrong?
Cathy forwarded the following collection of news stories on the impending gutting of derivatives regulation (such as it is) as a possible discussion topic. I hope some of you will have a chance to review these stories and inform the rest of us. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Nicholas

Derivatives Collection

Earlier this week, the House Ag Committee marked up some bills deregulating derivatives. I don’t think they were expecting anyone to really notice, but there was a bunch of press on what they did. The next step in the legislative process is for the House Financial Services Committee to look at the bills. That will take place in April. Here’s a round-up.

Bloomberg: Wall Street May Win Swap-Rule Reprieve in U.S. House Legislation

Mother Jones: Sneaky House Bill Would Gut Financial Reform

Huffington Post: Wall Street Deregulation Advances As Top Democrat Warns That Vote Could ‘Haunt’ Congress

The New Republic (by Jeff Connaughton): Financial Reform Is Being Dismantled. Why Doesn’t President Obama Seem to Care?

Salon: Is JPMorgan a farmer?

Huffington Post: Wall Street Deregulation Garners Bipartisan Support Despite Devastating JPMorgan Report

Talk Radio News Service: Get Ready For Another Derivative Meltdown

Jim Himes, House Democrat, Defends Bill To Weaken Dodd-Frank Derivatives Rule

Cyprus

Cyprus 2013

Rough translation: “The money, the money, where did it go? Into the capitalists’ pockets.”

There’s a good primer on the situation in Cyprus from Alternet, “7 Things You Need to Know About the Shocking Cyprus Bailout Crisis That Has Everyone Freaked Out.” I also liked the analysis in the Michael Roberts Blog. But it’s all dating fast as the situation unfolds. The people took to the streets, cabinet members resigned, and condemnations are coming from Russia (where many of the depositors actually live). Yesterday, with the bank holiday in its second day, the Parliament rejected the bailout plan with no one voting for it. Now what? With Intrade no longer operating, where can I bet on a surprise Russian bailout?

I had an interesting dinner conversation with some City University scholars (of the radical set) last night about how this case is more complicated than it looks. Cyprus, the latest EU crisis and Troika austerity victim, is also a haven for tax evasion and money laundering. Most of the deposits affected may be Russian, although as always in Cyprus there is also British capital. The island (or the recognized Greek part of it) is relatively wealthy compared to other periphery targets like the SPIGI or GIPSI (please call them that – not PIIGS), and the financial haven plays no small role in that.

One professor for whom I have developed great intellectual respect despite certain differences between us argued that the case of Cyprus isn’t comparable to the SPIGI because (for the sake of argument) to keep the two Cypriot banks from going under there is no one else to hit besides the depositors. He also asked: How is this worse than hitting pensioners and cutting social welfare benefits that are needed more desperately, with far worse human consequences? To the fact that people around the SPIGI and EU are now inspired by the example of so-far successful Cypriot popular resistance to the proposed measures, he said that, they were getting their analysis wrong. This case is not driven by quite the same power constellation as when the Troika imposes austerity on the SPIGI, because with the SPIGI you have a united front of EU and national elite interests carrying out the policy, with uninvolved elites at best indifferent. With Cyprus you have Russia and England pissed off about the EU plan. He pointed out that Putin never issued a statement damning the EU for the human price of austerity in, say, Portugal. He does so with Cyprus only because Russian elite interests are affected.

My answer was, first, that going after depositors (especially below the 100,000 euro level of guaranteed deposits) crosses a red line in capitalism’s own rules, and thus damages the ideology in a shocking way that’s cannibalistic to the powers that be. At the same time it is also an experiment in total exercise of class power, to see how far a people can be pushed and what might be learned for future cases. So this is the same forces, doing the same thing, with different means, in a different situation. At least, it is so if you understand that the key point is not in the measures imposed (deposits seized instead of pension and health care cuts) but in the sheer unconditionality of class power and the demand it never be questioned. Thus, while my professor friend’s analysis is true in terms of conflicts in elite interests and in the economic picture as can be seen by scholars and experts, the social movement response is another thing altogether. If there is inspiration among peoples in the SPIGI or EU at the Cypriot example of turning back that class power (for now, and perhaps with ugly consequences), and if this helps to spark upheavals against that power elsewhere, it wouldn’t be the first time a justified revolution (so to speak) was fired up by a rumor that turned out to be false after the train had already left the station.

By the way, while I don’t always say so, anything on here you see with my name on it represents my views and opinions, just like with Cathy and Josh, and any errors are mine.

Alt-Banking Endorses Robin Hood Tax (And the Revolution)

At the OWS Alternative Banking working group meeting of March 10th, 2013, those present (numbering about 30 persons) passed the following resolution by acclamation:

Endorsement of Robin Hood Tax

Occupy Wall Street – Alternative Banking Working Group endorses the initiative of a “Robin Hood Tax,” as advanced by Health Global Access Group and a coalition of other groups (see http://healthgap.org/rht-101). The initiative, also sometimes called a Tobin Tax or a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), would impose a tax of less than one-tenth of a percent on speculative financial transactions such as the trading of equities, options, currencies in bulk and derivatives. Forms of this tax already exist in other countries and the idea is currently on the G20 agenda.

In endorsing the idea of an FTT, we wish to make three points:

1) We agree with the additional idea of earmarking all revenues raised from an FTT for specific spending on global health and mitigating climate change, as specified by Health GAP.

2) We believe an FTT would help in curbing certain classes of systemically risky and non-productive speculative trades, such as High Frequency Trading.

3) While it is a good idea, in no way do we believe an FTT would be sufficient in solving the problems of the financial and monetary system, which even with an FTT will continue to pose unacceptable systemic risks, concentrate wealth in the hands of the 1%, and cause bubbles and periodic crashes such as the one we saw in 2007-2008. Much broader and further-ranging reform of the financial and monetary system remains necessary.

In other words, we think an FTT is an excellent idea whose time has come, even if it cannot suffice as a replacement for true Alternative Banking.

As far as “further-ranging reform” is concerned, it should be obvious to readers of this blog that our group is unanimously in favor of breaking up the private megabanks and re-instituting strong Glass-Steagal limits between commercial, speculative investment and insurance activities. And of course we are perhaps even more passionately in favor of enforcing all existing banking, fraud and conspiracy laws and regulations, so that the criminal behavior by the biggest players in the financial sector is actually punished – unlike the sorry reality of today, in which the regulators are captured and the government actively rewards criminals by agreeing to bogus institutional settlements that forego criminal investigations, thus guaranteeing further and even more ambitious criminal activity in the future.

But even all that would only put us back in the less-than ideal situation of the 1980s. Among us there are supporters for a wealth of more radical ideas: bank nationalization, modern monetary theory, debt-free or interest-negative money, public state development and commercial banks (like the one in North Dakota), community currencies or electronic currencies based on labor time or energy, independent non-profit ratings agencies, a cooperative Occupy Bank, a wealth tax, and of course expanding the credit union system. (Move Your Money!)

So watch this space as we discuss and debate just what kind of “different world is possible.” And join us!

Our meetings are held weekly at 3 pm on Sundays without fail, usually with pre-meeting talks and presentations starting at 2 pm. Right now we are preparing to write an OWS Alt-Banking book and planning many other actions and initiatives. For scheduling and details, please join our recently established Meetup group (bearing in mind that the RSVPs there reflect only a fraction of the actual attendance).

Meet David S. Cohen of Treasury and Stuart Levey of HSBC – Or Is It the Other Way Around?

LET US TAKE A LOOK AT THE CAREERS of two men who live in the incestuous world that C. Wright Mills, in his classic and still-contemporary 1956 study, called The Power Elite. As Mills wrote and many others since have found, the really key people at the rarified heights of American power and policy tend to rise up from a narrow group of universities, enter the same country clubs (like the Council on Foreign Relations), and in their careers revolve seamlessly between high positions in the “private” and “public” sectors. They serve the needs of the far-less-than-one-percent who effectively own both sectors; in the course of which they usually make themselves stinking rich (in those cases when they weren’t already born that way). If you want to see a great film about these meritocrats (a term originally coined ironically in the 1950s by UK political scientist Michael Young), we recommend Lewis Lapham’s terrific documentary musical, “The American Ruling Class” (2005), which also foresaw the nascent rebellion of the 99%.

Now let us meet David S. Cohen of the US Treasury Department and Stuart Levey of HSBC – or is it the other way around?

David S. Cohen

David S. Cohen

1) Since June 2011, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the United States Department of the Treasury has been one David S. Cohen (Yale Law School, 1989). Quoting his bio at the Treasury Department’s website, “As Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Cohen leads the Treasury Department’s policy, enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence functions aimed at identifying and disrupting the lines of financial support to international terrorist organizations, proliferators, narcotics traffickers, and other illicit actors posing a threat to our national security. He is also responsible for directing the Department’s efforts to combat money laundering and financial crimes” (all italics ours). Cohen had already been Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing since 2009.

2) Based on these portfolios, we would rightly expect Mr. Cohen’s responsibilities during the last two years to have included gathering intelligence on the notorious money laundering entity HSBC. The “too big to fail” megabank recently admitted to laundering billions of dollars for the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels and to violating rules on dealings with “terrorist” organizations in a settlement with the Justice Department that absolved all HSBC executives from a federal criminal investigation (December 2012).

3) David S. Cohen (it’s important to distinguish him from other David Cohens of note) also worked for the Treasury in 1999 to 2001, when he “was involved in crafting legislation that formed the basis of Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act, the 2001 update to the Bank Secrecy Act that provided Treasury new tools to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.” Once again, sounds just like HSBC!

4) In between his first stint at Treasury and his current stint at Treasury, Cohen worked seven years for the ginormously influential DC legal firm, Wilmer Hale Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, where he focused on “civil and criminal litigation, the defense of regulatory investigations into accounting and financial fraud, and anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance advice for a broad range of financial institutions including banks, broker-dealers, insurance companies, mutual funds and hedge funds.” In other words, in his current job at the Treasury Cohen is supposed to investigate the very same kind of entities that he had spent seven years defending while at Wilmer Hale.

5) The doors for Cohen have been revolving a lot longer than that. In the 1990s, Cohen practiced nine years at the DC firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin LLP, specializing in “white collar criminal defense and civil litigation,” again working as defense counsel for the kinds of firms he is now supposed to be investigating. Miller Cassidy later merged into an even more ginormous DC lawyer-lobbyist entity, Baker Botts LLP of Dallas and Washington (in which the “Baker” is none other than the former Secretary of State and Bush family consigliere, James Baker).

While at Miller Cassidy, Cohen would have surely made the acquaintance of another high-powered lawyer working there in nearly all of the same years. His name is Stuart Levey.

So who is Stuart Levey and why do we care?

Stuart Levey

Stuart Levey

6) Stuart Levey (Harvard Law School, 1989), worked at Miller Cassidy (the later Baker Botts) as a litigation practitioner for 11 years before joining the Justice Department in 2001. In 2004, the Bush government appointed him the first Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the US Department of the Treasury, a position in which he served also under President Obama until February 2011. In other words, Stuart Levey was the almost-direct predecessor to David S. Cohen as the “top cop” at Treasury for investigations into money laundering, terrorism and the international drug cartels. And this after both men had once worked at Miller Cassidy for nearly a decade in the 1990s.

7) More about Stuart Levey’s intimate connections to both the US Treasury and the Justice Department: “After leaving the Treasury Department, Mr Levey was a Senior Fellow for National Security and Financial Integrity at the Council on Foreign Relations. Prior to his Treasury appointment, Mr Levey served as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General at the US Department of Justice, having previously served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General and as the Chief of Staff of the Deputy Attorney General.”

8) Where is Stuart Levey today? Why, he’s on the HSBC Board of Directors as the Chief Legal Officer of HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC operations worldwide. We got all this information about Mr. Levey from his HSBC bio page. There we learned that he has been the drug money-laundering megabank’s Chief Legal Officer since January 2012. Thus, he would have been intimately involved in (and legally responsible for) the crafting of HSBC’s December 2012 “Get Out of Jail Free” settlement with the Justice Department. Intelligence from David S. Cohen’s group at Treasury must have also played a role in advising Justice on the historic settlement.

Our last claim is, again, based on Cohen’s portfolio; if he was not at all involved in the process leading to the DOJ/HSBC settlement, then just what is the purpose of his job?

Until now we have been privy to few details about what inside dealings went on in advance of the settlement, other than admissions from the recently disgraced and departed Deputy Attorney General Lanny Breuer that DOJ indeed considered the bank too big to fail. Last week, however, Attorney General Eric Holder reinforced before the Senate Banking Committee that he believes the executives of some banks are impossible to prosecute under criminal law because the possible failure of their institutions would risk a general financial crash.

It gets better. Also last week, David Cohen and officials from other ostensible financial regulatory agencies were called to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on the failure to bring prosecutions of banking criminals. Sen. Elizabeth Warren questioned Cohen about the HSBC case. We’ll let the excellent coverage by Erika Eichelberger in Mother Jones tell the rest of the story:

…it’s not just HSBC—this is a systemic problem. Ten banks have been penalized in recent years for failure to comply with anti-money laundering rules. The Senate banking committee held the hearing in order to interrogate regulators at the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about why they are not doing more to stop these kinds of shenanigans.

All of the regulators said they were working on improving regulations and enforcement and protested that it was up to the Department of Justice—not them—to decide whether prosecution was appropriate. (The Justice Department did not have a witness at the hearing.) They were reluctant to weigh in on whether they thought HSBC should have faced trial, even though they consult closely with the DOJ on bank activities. That infuriated Warren:

The US government takes money laundering very seriously for a good reason. And it puts strong penalties in place… It’s possible to shut down a bank… Individuals can be banned from ever participating in financial services again. And people can be sent to prison. In December, HSBC admitted to… laundering $881 million that we know of… They didn’t do it just one time… They did it over and over and over again… They were caught doing it, warned not to do it, and kept right on doing it. And evidently made profits doing it. Now, HSBC paid a fine, but no individual went to trial. No individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s actives in the US… You’re the experts on money laundering. I’d like your opinion. What does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?

David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, responded that his department had imposed on HSBC “the largest penalties we’ve imposed on any financial institution.”

Warren got annoyed. “I’m asking: what does it take to get you to move towards even a hearing to consider shutting down operations for money laundering?” she said.

Cohen kept evading and Warren got more annoyed. “I’m not hearing your opinion on this,” she said. “What does it take even to say, ‘here’s where the line is’? Draw a line, and if you cross that line you’re at risk for having the bank closed.”

Cohen said he had views, but couldn’t get into it.

“It’s somewhere beyond $881 million in drug money,” Warren concluded on her own, and went on to spell out the injustice of it all. “If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, you’re going to go to jail… But if you launder nearly a billion dollars for international cartels and violate sanctions you pay a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed a night.”

The claim from Treasury officials at the hearing was that they couldn’t move to pull HSBC’s license to kill to bank as long as Justice had not filed criminal charges. So Treasury and the other agencies couldn’t do nothin’, because Justice was too busy doing nothin’, apparently because Treasury wasn’t advising them to do anythin’.

As we consider this round-robin of abdication from the pretense that the government has either the responsibility or the power to prosecute the World’s Gangster Banks, remember our meritocratic takeaway for today:

HSBC’s top counsel, Levey, preceded Cohen at his present job as the top money laundering “investigator” at Treasury, after both spent nearly a decade together at the same high-priced DC law firm.

Small world!

Nick Levis writes for OWS Alternative Banking blog (alternativebanking.nycga.net). Any opinions and errors are his.

OWS Alt-Banking Returns to HSBC – Mon March 4, NYC

Please join OWS Alt-Banking for a second picket to highlight the crimes of HSBC, Monday, March 4th. We’ll gather on the steps of the New York Public Library, Main Branch, Fifth Avenue and 41st Street, at High Noon.

On this day, HSBC will be presenting its 2012 earnings report – more billions for the Official Bank of Drug Lords & Terrorists.

This is an ongoing campaign by “Occupy Wall Street – Alternative Banking.” We are highlighting not just HSBC’s admitted (and unpunished) severe criminal activity but the general problem of “Too Big to Fail” and “Too Big to Jail.”

What’s true of HSBC is true of all Wall Street megabanks – size, perverse personell incentives and de facto immunity from prosecution create an environment that is “criminogenic,” in Bill Black’s phrase. That means institutions in which crime pays, in which those who remain honest are patsies. The 99% suffer as these institutions engage in systematic plunder and fraud from the top – and set us up for the next crash and the next bail-outs.

Here’s a revised version of one of our chants:

Bankers and Drug Lords sitting in a tree -
k – i – s – s – i – n – g
First comes CRIME
Then comes PROFIT
Then comes A SETTLEMENT WITH THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Sell a bag of marijuana, you could go to prison. Make billions by helping the Mexican drug cartels launder billions, you get a banker’s bonus.

The first picket (Valentines Day) was a lot of fun. See lots of pictures.

If you come we will have plenty of colorful signs ready for you, and sandwich boards, and of course everyone’s favorite money-laundering dancer will be there on skates.

Facebook event page

Also, join our new Alt-Bank Meetup page for regular updates on events and meetings.

Here’s a leaflet:

HSBC Leaflet for March4

HSBC Leaflet for March4 jpg (Ver.02.25)