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Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to know what it would take to shut down a big bank guilty of engaging in money laundering for drug cartels.

HSBC admitted in court late last year that it helped launder $881 million for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, along with continually violating sanctions on Iran, Libya, Burma and the Sudan. Though the bank paid a $1.2 billion fine, not one bank employee has faced criminal charges related to the trafficking.

The London-based bank is still operating in the United States.

In a hearing entitled “Patterns of Abuse: Assessing Bank Secrecy Act Compliance and Enforcement,” Warren continually asked Treasury officials a version of the same question: “How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”

Treasury officials asserted that they do not have the power to shut down a financial institution. They said that power belongs to the Fed and such an action would be be triggered by a criminal conviction, which would be have to be pursued by the Justice Department.

Attorney General Eric Holder, the head of the Justice Department, told a Senate committee Wednesday that the size of big banks “has an inhibiting influence – impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate.And I think that is something that we – you all – need to consider.”

And this is why the big banks never wanted Elizabeth Warren in the United States Senate.

(Hat tip to David Dayen.)

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Herschel Walker

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