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Authorization: General v. Specific

Many prominent and intelligent individuals have complained that ‘no senior-level bankers have gone to jail’ as a result of their actions and omissions RE: Financial crisis, c. 2007.┬áThese complaints seem motivated by the perception that senior bankers have been unjustly enriched by their business conduct. Without drilling down into the fairness / unfairness of their levels of compensation, what seems clear is the willingness of many to deem senior management responsible on the basis of their general authorization of policies, procedures, practices, ethics, etc. of the enterprises over which they provided stewardship – authorization that did not in effect allegedly properly weigh the risk that wrongdoing (or at a minimum, acts detrimental to their clients specifically and the public at large generally) would be neither prevented nor timely detected. However, instances of senior banker specific approval or ratification of these alleged bad acts are less commonly discovered in the public domain.

Resolution of the issue whether some, most, all, or none of these senior bankers were reckless or worse with respect to the underlying inimical financial transactions seems a matter of strong opinion founded on the professional experience of the expert opinion holder or the informed gut instincts of the lay opinion holder. The eagerness to hold these senior leaders legally responsible rests on undisclosed principles of moral responsibility, especially as the evidence and data available in the public domain do not indubitably establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (or even preponderance of evidence).

Apparently, the socially expressed desire to punish is shifting away from crimes such as those involving illegal drugs to those involving the breach of duty to review and approve (intelligently and morally) the creation, marketing, and reporting of financial and investment transactions. This, of course, is great for my particular discipline.

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