In a decision that was unanimous, the Supreme Court ruled this week that financial criminals (bankers, financial advisors, producers of financial devices, Hedge Fund managers, etc.) cannot be prosecuted for their crimes if they are not charged within a 5 year limit of the commission of the crime. This is essentially an amnesty for the engineers of the current credit crisis. As the initial frauds surrounding the manufacture of the derivatives that exploded the economy and caused a 50% drop in the stock market, destroyed millions of Americans equity and value in their homes, and the frauds in documentation of loans all mainly took place in the 5 years prior to 2008, the Supreme Court has now made it impossible for the Security and Exchange Commission or any other legal body to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.
While the banks have been making restitution in civil suits, criminal charges have been suggested by the SEC as coming in their wake as are several pending cases by states attorney generals. It was almost impossible for criminal charges to be brought against bankers before this decision due to changes in criminal law engineered by the banks after the energy crisis and dot.com collapse in the 1990s and 2000 (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/...). Attempts to prosecute the management of Worldcom and Enron had been difficult, but now the financial industry is entirely shielded. It is like saying that if you rob a bank, rape someone or commit murder and no one charges you for 5 years you are free.
This application of the concept of a statute of limitations to the crimes of the credit crisis is absurd. Under written contracts however, states vary on the length of limitations from as little as 3 years to 15 years (http://www.nolo.com/...). For promissory notes from 3 to 10 years (http://www.creditinfocenter.com/...).
In an interesting ironic twist Federal limitations on criminal acts has a special provision for a ten year extension of the statute of limitations on crimes against financial institutions!
"Although the majority of federal crimes are governed by the general five year statute of limitations, Congress has chosen longer periods for specific types of crimes – 20 years for the theft of art work;20 10 years for arson,21 for certain crimes against financial institutions,22 and for immigration offenses;23 and eight years for the nonviolent violations of the terrorism-associated statutes which may be prosecuted at any time if committed under violent circumstances.24 Investigative difficulties25 or the seriousness of the crime26 seem to have provided the rationale for enlargement of the time limit for prosecuting these offenses beyond the five year standard."
This is a quote from: Statutes of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview
Senior Specialist in American Public Law October 1, 2012.
The situation was already dismal. In my recent book I have a chapter that details the crimes of the financial industry and how they have avoided paying the price of criminal prosecution. I show how they have paid fines where the average person is sent to prison for the type of frauds they executed. See: http://www.amazon.com/.... My book is in paperback and Kindle.