Like Al Capone’s merry band of bootleggers before their fateful brush with the legendary lawman Elliot Ness, today’s banking executives believe they can flout pretty much every law without the slightest fear of sanction. And judging by the number of convictions meted out to senior financial fraudsters in the wake of the global crisis they themselves caused, their sense of hubris and impunity is entirely justified. Put simply, they are untouchable.
In the frankest admission yet that banks and other corporations are quite literally above the law, the U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that big companies couldn’t be indicted because it might damage the U.S. or world economy. Indeed, as Matt Taibbi reported in The Rolling Stone, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is now saying that not only can they not indict the companies, but they cannot even indict any of the individual criminals at the companies. In other words, the department ostensibly responsible for delivering justice in the U.S. is now running a protection racket and its clients include the employees and executives of the country’s largest law breakers.
But just when you thought that the enlightened concept of universal justice was dead and buried, a courageous Spanish judge by the name of Elpidio José Silva has done what virtually no other judge in the Western world, bar Iceland, has dared to do: He has refused to grant bail to a former senior banker, sending him to prison before facing trial for his alleged role in the lead-up to the financial crisis.