This isn't about throwing bankers in jail for the sake of it. It's about making things fair. If we're going to keep throwing people in jail for food stamp fraud, then bankers who commit systematic securities fraud also have to go to jail. Either that, or we have to come up with alternative punishments for both types of nonviolent criminal. I'm not opposed to that, either. There are powerful arguments to be made against jail for many nonviolent offenders. The punishments for rich and poor just have to match, that's all.

As to point two -- if we're not putting people in jail, we at least have to insist the companies break themselves up -- this is in response to the argument made by the likes of Attorney General Eric Holder and former Department of Justice criminal division chief Lanny Breuer last winter after settlements involving HSBC (for money laundering) and UBS (for mass rate-fixing in the LIBOR scandal). The justification in those cases for deferred and or non-prosecution agreements coupled with huge fines as punishments for sweepingly destructive offenses was that the companies in question were too large and too systemically important to risk indicting criminally.


But if that's true, then the state can't simply accept that reality every time a huge company starts committing serial fraud or theft. If these companies commit crimes but are too big to prosecute, well, then, in lieu of indictments of the firm, or jail terms for executives, they have to become smaller, so that they can safely be prosecuted the next time. The state has the power to make that happen, but it would be a shock if they ever exercised that power.

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