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Banks Launder Drug Money; Prosecutors Shrug

Months ago, a criminal defense attorney was criminally prosecuted for laundering money because he accepted legal fees from an accused drug dealer.  He was acquitted of all charges, but he lost years of his life and $500,000 in legal fees.  What would have happened to this lawyer if he had been a big bank?

In a punchline that is getting so old that it's banal, the answer is, of course: "Nothing." (Hat tip.)  The United States Department of Justice has given Wall Street a license to do business with drug dealers.  Banks may, without any meaningful consequences, launder drug money.

Here is one example: 

Just before sunset on April 10, 2006, a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City. The smugglers had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the U.S.: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp.

Hundreds of people have been murdered in Arizona drug lord wars.  Americans are dying because Mexican drug lords are able to move their money to arms dealers.  Wells Fargo is thus responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people.

What consequences follow blatant criminal conduct?

No big U.S. bank -- Wells Fargo included -- has ever been indicted for violating the Bank Secrecy Act or any other federal law. Instead, the Justice Department settles criminal charges by using deferred-prosecution agreements, in which a bank pays a fine and promises not to break the law again.

Wall Street is above the law in every way.  At this point, the social contract has been breached.  Wall Street may steal from Americans and conspire with drug dealers.  How many Arizonans have lost their lives recently from guns that Wells Fargo helped the drug cartels purchase?

Whether it is ethical to take self-help and other corrective measures on banks is no longer the stuff of undergraduate conversations over too much coffee.  The law does not apply to Wall Street, and this means that the laws need not be obeyed when dealing with Wall Street.  Of course breaking a law has legal consequences, but of course were are merely talking philosophy.  As a matter of first principles, Wall Street banks and bankers are not entitled to the protection of the social contract.

No rules of ethics applies to any banks.  It is now impossible, as a matter of logic, to "cheat" or "steal" from a bank.  You simply cannot  steal from a thief.  Self-help means taking back what is yours.  You cannot "attack "a bank, since defending one's self from those who would arm drug dealers is self-defense.

 The social contract is the basis of the American government.  A contract implies rights and obligations.  When one refuses to abide his obligations, he has breached the contract and therefore is entitled to no rights under the contract.  

Bankers are stealing from you and arming drug dealers.  They deserve whatever happens to them.  If this means people like Joe Stacks act out against banks, then no one can morally condemn him.  Yes, he can be prosecuted legally.  A jury, however, should exercise its constitutional and historical prerogative by voting not guilty in any prosecution involving "misconduct" against a bank.  

Indeed, the only interesting philosophical question is - ala the grand philosophical tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Henry David Thoreau, and Marting Luther King, Jr. - what "civil disobedience" means in a post-bailout world.

Wall Street has decided that the law does not apply to it.  Wall Street should therefore get what it has asked for.  May its future be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.