The Idea Behind ‘No Admission of Guilt.’
It’s such a beautiful concept for the rich and powerful.
Which of course is why it exists in the courtrooms of America. It’s a sort of expanded version of dealing drugs or kicking the shit out of someone and then striking a bargain when the cops show up. “Surely officer, we can come to an agreement. I’ll slip you a few bucks and we’ll forget the whole thing.”
That was once called bribing an officer of the law
It still is, unless the stakes are high enough to cut yourself a deal. They never were for me and very early in life I found that wrapping my driver’s license in a twenty-dollar bill was a bet not worth making. Not to make too fine a point, but a thousand-dollar bill might well have done it.
There’s a principle involved here in a largely unprincipled world
Let’s take Bernie Madoff as an example—actually a pretty good example, because Bernie made the mistake of fucking over some very wealthy people. In a pyramid-scheme there isn’t enough money left over when the music stops to cut a deal. And if these very rich people didn’t get their dough back, they wanted him in prison for a very long time.
Now, try to square that with a major bank. We’ll call it The Bank of Bernie so we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings at Wells Fargo or Bank of America. The Bank of Bernie could (and did) screw its depositors out of ten times what Madoff did. Possibly a hundred times, America’s largest banks are very skilled at separating their depositors from their money.
But no one went to prison. If you can canoodle the Justice Department and have a few bucks to throw on the table, there’s no need to take a hit. That’s the principle we learned.
And, as we’ve been taught, Justice is blind
So the principle works in all kinds of circumstances. The opioid disaster that murdered a half-million Americans is about to be solved by Purdue Pharma paying a ten billion-dollar fine. Don’t bother with the fine print that says Purdue is in bankruptcy and won’t be able to come up with the money. That’s just an embarrassing little detail. Seems the criminal Sackler family, who own Purdue, stripped it of that ten billion and personally hid it offshore. What the hell, things happen.
Wells Fargo Bank came up with a scheme to open fake bank accounts for its customers and got caught at it. How many accounts? Aw shucks, it was only 3 ½ million. Ya know, shit happens. So, the CEO stepped down and the bank paid a $3 billion fine. No one went to jail. I admit that $3 billion sounds like a lot of dough, but Wells Fargo cleared a $22.39 billion profit in 2018. A mere financial slap on the hand.
So anyway, that’s the major difference between Wells Fargo and The Bank of Bernie. Wells Fargo had the three billion.
Elizabeth Warren ran for President on the basis of cleaning up Wall Street and the banking industry
It wasn’t always like this. Banking was a sleepy little boring industry that loaned money to businesses and made mortgages. Depositors got a modest return on their savings, the president of the bank lived in town and drove a Buick. We knew who he was and he knew us, much like a family doctor. We had those as well, if you can believe it.
But the Ronald Reagan years of deregulation brought us ‘branch banking’ and on the heels of that the banks we knew and loved turned into the banks no one knew and no one loved.
Thus Warren, who had a plan for that, never had a chance
She seemed to feel that we had a national, local and personal obligation to be responsible for what we did. It made no sense to her to throw the underprivileged out on the street or into prison while the wealthy and well-connected paid a few bucks to buy a get out of jail free card and tuck it in their breast pocket.
Warren and Bernie Sanders were wildly popular with the voters, but money carried the day, as it so often does, with no admission of guilt.