An Etiquette Lesson for Elizabeth Warren From “El Loco”

Richard Eskow

Somebody really needs to let Elizabeth Warren know how Washingon society works. Last week Warren and several other Senators rebuked regulators for their refusal to act against felonious banks and bankers when they violate sanctions or criminally assist psychotic drug lords who cut off people’s heads.

Their outrage was triggered by the lack of indictments against bankers at HSBC. The bank’s executives earned big bonuses after their bank laundered money for Mexican drug cartels and criminally violated sanctions against Iran, Libya, Sudan, Burma and Cuba. As “punishment,” the banks’ shareholders will pay a $1.9 billion fine. The lawbreakers themselves will not be charged, and will be allowed to keep their own ill-gotten income.

As Sen. Warren noted:

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail. Evidently, if you launder nearly $1 billion for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.”

Warren and several of her colleagues continued to lambast these public servants at length for their indifferent attitude toward Wall Street felonies. Apparently nobody told them: In Washington, that sort of thing just isn’t done.

After all, the word has come down from Attorney General Eric Holder himself: We don’t punish too-big-to-fail banks.  “(I)f we do bring a criminal charge,” said Holder, “it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

This is presumably why Wells Fargo, like HSBC, was never indicted for feloniously aiding and abetting Mexican drug lords. That group is made up of people like “El Loco” – “The Madman” – who run gangs like “Los Zetas.” They’ve murdered more than sixty thousand people, often by cutting off their heads and tossing them into nightclubs and town squares. “El Loco” himself was indicted for beheading 49 people and dumping their heads in the town square.

Of course, they didn’t call him “El Loco” at HSBC or Wells Fargo, or wherever he does his banking: They undoubtedly called him “Sir.” And while HSBC’s slogan is “The World’s Local Bank,” we’re pretty sure he didn’t have to wait on line to see a teller.

Holder insists that indicting a bank will destabilize the global economy. But there’s a question Holder won’t answer: Why aren’t they indicting individual bankers? Banks don’t launder money: Bankers do. People, not institutions, are committing these crimes.  Surely the global economy would survive if El Loco’s friends in the banking business did a little hard time.

But Holder won’t indict them, last week’s hearing was a repulsive spectacle of buck-passing between David Cohen of the Treasury Department, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry, and Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell. Their Three Stooges routine – each deferred to someone else, and all of them deferred to Holder – left these socially unschooled Senators outraged.

Somewhere, one imagines, El Loco was laughing.

These regulators couldn’t even muster a convincing tone of disapproval about these crimes. They certainly wouldn’t concede they had a responsibility to discourage that sort of thing. For this indifference they received a thorough tongue-lashing from Warren, Sen. Joe Mancin, and Republican Mark Kirk, who said that “You would think there would be one hell of a penalty” for these crimes.

Yeah, you’d think.

Sen. Warren can’t be blamed for her lapse in etiquette, one supposes. She’s new in town and doesn’t understand how things are done. But Senators Manchin and Kirk should know better. They’ve been Senators since 2010. Surely they’ve been invited to the cozy soirées where Representatives of the People nurse drinks and nibble hors d’ouevres with the likes of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Who’s that, you ask?  Under Dimon’s leadership Chase engaged in massive bribery down in Alabama, hired inexperienced “Burger King kids” to engage in the widespread forgery of mortgage documents, and deceived investors about its own financial standing. Dimon himself told investors that the “London Whale” scandal was a “tempest in a teapot,” although he knew losses were in the billions. (Misleading investors is a crime.)

Billions of dollars. That may even be more money than Los Zetas brings in.

But one doesn’t rebuke the likes of Jamie Dimon for this sort of behavior. Nor does one upset the social order of Washington’s finest by scolding officials for their indifferent attitude toward criminal collusion on behalf of decapitation-crazed drug lords like El Loco.  After all, what are a few severed heads between friends?

You may think the mass killing of innocents is wrong. Fair enough. Others may look upon it as a chance to commit highly profitable felonies. As the President likes to say, surely we can “disagree without being disagreeable.”

Pass the tapas, Jamie.

Politicians and regulators serve criminal banks for the very same reason that Willie Sutton robbed them: That’s where the money is.  If these Senators don’t figure that out pretty soon, they’re going to have to go to the people to raise money.

And going to the people is a ghastly experience, darling. Anybody on the Washington social scene knows that. The people are messy, over-emotional, and have all sorts of opinions about their government – opinions that interfere with the cozy consensus that’s constantly being formed at cocktail parties with the likes of Eric Holder and Jamie Dimon.

It’s your choice, Senators: You can lower your social standing by hanging around with “the people,” or you can raise it by hobnobbing with “all the right people.” Be forewarned: The wrong choice may cause you to lose out on a lot of campaign cash.  You may not get those cushy corporate Board appointments when you leave office, not to mention those highly-paid jobs as spokespeople for corporate shell groups like Fix the Debt.

Is your integrity worth that much to you?

The good news is that it’s not too late. You’ll find that the genteel elite is more than willing to forgive your past moral transgressions – that is, the transgression of having morals – a fact to which many of your fellow Democrats can attest. So take it easy, won’t you? Repent, relent … and relax. Get off this nutty “ethics” kick, if only for your own sakes! Invitations to the right parties will soon start flowing your way. There you’ll enjoy the warmth of the laughter, the quality of the food, and the generosity of your future patrons.

Just be careful not to stumble on the severed heads as you leave.

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