Too Big to Jail

Posted: Mar 21, 2013 12:01 AM

The irony is almost overwhelming, as laws have been developed in order to protect the public.  Thus, I can totally understand the reason that before every VHS tape, DVD, or Blu-ray movie that I have ever watched, there is a statement that seems to be on the screen an abhorrently long time:  Warning – any representation, distribution, or exhibition of this film without express permission is a felony with a maximum fine of $250,000 and five years in the slammer (the underlined portion is poetic license, but it’s still five years in jail.) 

Consequently, it’s very clear and I’m quite certain that if I show Gone with the Wind to my church group and take a donation for religious missions, the movie police will show up at my door and take me away. 

Yet, I’m having a very difficult time coming to grips with the fact that as the extent of the crime becomes much more serious, the rules of the game seem to change and a whole new legal defense is allowed to be utilized. 

For example, SAC Capital Advisors, one of the nation’s most successful hedge funds, recently agreed to pay a record $615 million in order to settle two SEC insider trading charges. 

Yet, the brain behind the trades, SAC Capital founder Steven Cohen, is still walking around as a free man. 

Cohen (they call him Stevie) has been acclaimed (and almost vilified) for his annual 30% returns over the past two decades. 

In addition to receiving great notoriety for his astute stock market trading in recent years, Cohen has accepted revolting amounts in salary (reportedly up to $1 billion per year) and outrageous million-dollar annual bonuses. 

Now, however, we are discovering that his so-called success may have been due to much more nefarious reasons. 

So far, the regulators have accepted Cohen’s “Sergeant Schultz” (Hogan’s Heroes) excuse, “I know nothing.” 

Apparently, that seems to be the accepted excuse du jour, as both Jamie Dimon and Ina Drew of J.P. Morgan “whale fame” also recently looked squarely at the U.S. Senators and declared a “Sgt. Schultz.” 

Of course, perhaps starting it all was former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine and his wonderful response when asked as to the whereabouts of the missing $1.6 billion in customer funds, as he essentially said, “Beats me, I’m just the CEO.” 

WhileCorzine’s response was somewhat of a takeoff on the Cohen-Dimon-Drew excuse, it was still totally acceptable. 

Convicted felon Martha Stewart, upon reading about the insider trading scandal at SAC Capital, must now feel that she was poorly advised by her legal team. 

If she had to do it all over again, I’m quite sure that Martha would definitely not provide questionable facts, nor would she “plead the Fifth.” 

Rather, she would do what all hers peers are currently doing, and that is to look directly at a television camera and say, “I plead the Sgt. Schultz.” 

Nevertheless, I’m not sure if that plea would be acceptable to the movie police.