(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, talks about HSBC Holdings Plc's agreement to pay $1.92 billion to settle U.S. probes of money laundering in the largest such accord ever.
Do not skip this. Bloomberg interviews Breuer.
Watch the whole interview, but pay particular attention at the 2:30 mark. Breuer is shocked by the question and admits "we don't know anything about that letter" before changing the subject. His answer is completely ridiculous on so many painful levels (prosecutors are supposed to investigate for chrissakes), but again this is what happens when you have criminal defense attorneys from Covington & Burling running DOJ.
No word on whether Breuer gave his famous pep talk to HSBC execs on avoiding prison.
"We are frequently on the receiving end of presentations from defense counsel, CEOs, and economists who argue that the collateral consequences of an indictment would be devastating for their client. In my conference room, over the years, I have heard sober predictions that a company or bank might fail if we indict, that innocent employees could lose their jobs, that entire industries may be affected, and even that global markets will feel the effects. Sometimes – though, let me stress, not always – these presentations are compelling."
For the government not to go a step further and prosecute was "beyond obscene," said Bill Black, a former U.S. regulator for the Office of Thrift Supervision. "Regulators are telling us, 'Yes, they're felons, they're massive felons, they did it for years, they lied to us, and they made a lot of money ... and they got caught red-handed and they're gonna walk.'"
Black disputed the government's concern that indicting HSBC could take down the financial system. "That's the logic that we get stability by leaving felons in charge of our largest banks," he said. "This is insane."