“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good your going to go jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life, But evidently if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night” — Elizabeth Warren
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In this quote, Elizabeth Warren is criticizing the disparity in how the justice system treats individual drug users/sellers compared to major financial institutions. She notes that possession of a small amount of cocaine can result in jail time, and repeat offenses in a life sentence. However, Warren points out that when a large international bank like HSBC was found to have laundered nearly $1 billion for drug cartels and violated sanctions, they faced no criminal charges – only a fine.
The quote conveys Warren’s view that there is one set of rules/punishments for ordinary citizens, but another more lenient set for powerful corporations that break the law. She believes this double standard undermines equal justice and allows corporate crimes to effectively be treated as civil matters rather than serious criminal offenses.