Former money-market trader Paul Thompson was at his well kept brick-and-tile Dalkeith home, a couple of blocks from Perth's Swan River, last Thursday when Australian Federal Police officers came to arrest him. The October 22 arrest was not a complete surprise, nor was it entirely unexpected. Thompson didn't know an arrest warrant had been issued and he wasn't told police were on their way. He spent the past week in Hakea Prison, south of Perth, awaiting extradition proceedings to the United States, where the charges have been filed. – Financial Review
Dominant Social Theme: US justice is always served.
Free-Market Analysis: One long-running financial meme of the mainstream media poses the question, why haven't bankers gone to jail for helping to create the subprime crisis and subsequent Great Recession?
Back in 2013, it looked like that question would be answered by action when Benjamin Wagner, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, targeted JPMorgan Chase.
Wagner wrote a report on how JPMorgan Chase marketed inappropriate packages of securitized mortgages to investors. But instead of going to court, the Justice Department extracted a huge financial settlement.
In November 2013, JPMorgan Chase decided to accept a $13 billion DOJ offer. Eric Holder claimed the settlement showed Wall Street could be held accountable.
But perhaps not. The corporation itself took the blame, not individuals. Corporate personhood is a big barrier when it comes to prosecuting individuals in large corporations. Instead, the deep pockets of large entities prove a tempting alternative target.
The combination of prosecutorial difficulty and the available prize of corporate treasure combine to create a federal bias toward seeking fines rather than corporate accountability.
Recently, the US government pursued the extradition of former money-market trader Paul Thompson (see article excerpt, above). He was arrested at his home in Dalkeith, Australia.
Thompson is being extradited to the US on charges of manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. The illegal transactions took place in Singapore.
While the US will not prosecute bankers at home, it is willing to arrest someone in Australia who allegedly perpetrated a crime in Singapore targeting a British financial facility (Libor).
In fact, the US seems to be trying to project the power of its justice system abroad whenever possible. Prosecutions aren't important but a worldwide prosecutorial reach seems to be.
The FBI, a constitutionally dubious facility to begin with, now has offices in over 100 countries abroad. The US has become the tax policeman of the world, demanding that banks in other countries turn over revenue and information about US accountholders.
As a result, US travelers abroad are increasingly disenfranchised and find it hard to make simple monetary transactions, let alone do business in foreign countries.
At home, the US justice system increasingly provokes questions and criticism. Prisoners are black well in excess of the ratio of African-Americans to whites in the larger population.
Increasingly, prisons have been "privatized" – turned over to the private sector to be run at a profit. This encourages municipalities to incarcerate people to fulfill contractual clauses mandating that the prison population be kept at a certain level.
The US prison system, like systems of this sort everywhere, suffers from a considerable number of falsely accused and convicted individuals. No one knows how many, but the discovery and application of DNA analysis has helped free numerous innocent people.
It is unfortunate that prison/justice reform discussions often revolve around efficiency and cost rather than more fundamental issues. One such example of how easily the conversation can "go off the rails" can be found in a recent UK Telegraph article entitled, "We must reform our justice system."
Here's how it begins:
For at least 20 years, successive governments have promised to reform and modernise Britain's criminal courts so that they dispense justice more efficiently, there are fewer delays, and victims do not have to rub shoulders with perpetrators.
So far, none of the attempts at reform has succeeded. As we report today, when Sir Paul Stephenson, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, observed the proceedings at Westminster Magistrates' Court with this newspaper on one day last week, he concluded that the courts are "slow, bureaucratic and hugely frustrating".
No doubt British jurisprudence suffers from some of the same problems as the US. But surely the fundamental issues have far more to do with the basic assumptions of the system than with its efficacy.
In fact, a bad system that is inefficient is probably preferable to a bad system that is efficient when it comes to "justice."
Anyone exposed to justice in either Britain or the US knows that it can be both capricious and arbitrary. It is nothing like what is portrayed in movies and on TV.
The fundamental problem of modern justice is that it has become the monopoly purview of the government. The state is inefficient in the best of times. But give the state unlimited power to punish and the monopoly power to do so and you have a recipe for disaster.
Over time, we've predicted, people will be increasingly willing to entertain various forms of private – non state – justice of the sort that has existed for millennia.
Alternatively, and even more importantly, people can take "human action" to avoid getting caught up in the criminal justice system either as a defendant or victim.
The incarceration of a criminal likely does your pocketbook little good, as compensation may be difficult to come by. Best to keep your wits about you and educate yourself about both white- and blue-collar scams.
Additionally, try to learn as much as you can about the financial system under which you live. In some ways it is government itself that exploits people even more than the most accomplished criminal. Take nothing for granted. Caveat emptor.