The trend to settle for settlements is a debasement of the justice system. The Department of Justice, State Attorneys General and various police departments, etc. have all adopted the policy of "settlement" for various cases where laws are violated.
Often these settlements allow the defendant to not admit guilt and in all, or nearly all, the instances no individuals are punished in any way.
I am not familiar with the history of this policy but I am aware that the Sherman Antitrust act specifically include personal liability - in the form of a felony offense - as a key deterrent part of the law. This was done knowing that without personal liability, the corporate shield would allow, even encourage, individuals to violate the law with impunity.
Somehow, this has been abandoned. Today the Department of Justice is quite content to "settle" for fines against corporations and letting the individuals responsible for the violations go anonymous and free. The DoJ typically does not even require the corporation to admit it is guilty of violations of the law.
A few examples:
Jan 21 (Reuters) - Credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's will pay $77 million in an unprecedented settlement with U.S. and state regulators who accused S&P of misleading investors about its rating system in 2011 and 2012.
July 2 (Reuters) - A federal judge has approved HSBC Holdings Plc's (HSBA.L)HBC.N record $1.92 billion settlement with federal and state investigators of charges that it flouted rules designed to stop money laundering and thwart transactions with countries under U.S. sanctions.
Nov 19 (CNN) JPMorgan has agreed to a $13 billion settlement over mortgage-backed securities sold ahead of the financial crisis, officials announced Tuesday.
The Justice Department called the agreement "the largest settlement with a single entity in American history."
Nov 17 (ABC) US Cities (and Taxpayers) Paying Millions in Police Misconduct Settlements
Apr 17 (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp.’s Countrywide unit agreed to pay $500 million to settle a lawsuit over billions of dollars in residential mortgage-backed securities that were downgraded to junk.
Sept 2 (Reuters) - Halliburton Co (HAL.N), North America's top oilfield services provider, said it reached a $1.1 billion settlement for a majority of claims related to its role in BP Plc's (BP.L) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Jan 9 (Wash Post) Halliburton, the huge oil services company in Houston, said yesterday that it has agreed to pay $559 million to settle corruption charges with the U.S. government linked to its former subsidiary KBR.
and the list goes on and on and on.
These "settlements" are not just for financial crimes - they include violations that resulted in serious injury and death. Still, the justice system thinks it is acceptable to "settle" for cash.
In most of the cases, the Department of Justice makes a major point of the dollar amount of the settlement. It promotes it as if it is a great achievement for government to take in big dollars in fines and settlements.
Somehow, the Department of Justice and the justice system in general - right down to local courts and district attorneys - have forgotten that their primary function is to uphold the law and to prevent and deter individuals from violating it.
When they "settle" the message for the violators is very clear: full speed ahead. Pay the fine, it is only a fraction of the net.
The same goes true for the most egregious criminal acts in history - namely the Bush junta lying to launch a war in Iraq and adopting torture and rendition as official US policy. Yet, one Pelosi's first acts as Speaker was to take impeachment "off the table" and one of Obama's was to direct the DoJ to not even investigate - "look forward, not backward".
This policy of settling is an explanation for why the violations continue and seem to be increasing. And should anyone expect it to be different? This is what we have to look forward to - endless violations of the law with individual impunity.
It was not always so. In 1907 the American Tobacco Company was indicted in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1908 when the Department of Justice filed suit against the company, sixty-five companies and twenty-nine individuals were named in the suit.
Even today, there are still some low level cases where individuals are punished
But the big fish swim free.
Maybe some other KOSsack has done some reseach on the history of this trend.