I wasn’t a supporter of the death penalty, especially since the advent of new crime solving technology proved there were innocent people on death row. But Iran’s recent execution of billionaire businessman Mahafarid Amir Khosravi for running a $2.6 billion bank fraud scheme has changed my mind and convinced me that we should implement the death penalty for similar crimes here in the U.S.
I’m talking about the type of massive fraud that caused the 2008 financial crisis and very nearly destroyed our economy and continues to retard its recovery. The number of people prosecuted and convicted for contributing to that crisis has been disappointing. The perceived failure of law enforcement to hold Wall Street accountable has reinforced the widespread belief that there’s a more lenient legal system for rich people.
Another example of this is the recent deal the U.S. Justice Department made with Credit Suisse. The Swiss banking giant admitted that for several decades it helped American clients conceal assets to avoid taxes. It agreed to stop doing it and to pay about $2.6 billion in penalties and hire an independent monitor. But the deal also stipulated that none of their American executives would be prosecuted and they would be allowed to keep doing business in the U.S. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be required to turn over the names of the cheating Americans they helped.
Wall Street Criminals Should Be Eligible
Many critics have called the $2.6 billion fine a slap on the wrist for an international financial institution as big as Credit Suisse. In fact, the bank’s CEO, American Brady Dougan, issued a statement regretting their “the past misconduct,” and said the deal would produce no “material impact” on the bank’s “operational or business capabilities.” This sweetheart deal still needs to be approved by the courts, so maybe it will be revised. But no matter what happens, we need stronger corporate crime laws and more vigorous prosecution of financial fraud.
I realize it will be difficult to get our lawmakers to go so far as to enact laws making major fraud a capital offense. We’ll hear lame excuses, like it’s too difficult to define the level of fraud that could get someone put to death. But some phrasing could be drafted that gives juries the option of applying the death penalty when they find it’s justified by the scope of the financial crime that was committed. The greedy vermin infesting Wall Street need to learn there will be serious consequences for illegal behavior – we need penalties that go beyond painless fines and white-collar prisons.
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