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Published on Jan 30, 2012
Between 2004 -- 2006 the Justice Department claimed that he found a market while at Wachovia Bank that exceeded $370 Billion dollars. That big market was laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels. No biggie. They just had to pay a fine.
One of the great things about our modern financial system is our ability to innovate, define new markets, and make good money. One great success story is the brilliant G. Ken Thompson. Now he is the guy that ran Wachovia bank from 2000 -- 20008. He was part of that great effort to consolidate banks over the last few years—he was really one of the architects of too big to fail. In fact he sold Wachovia to Wells Fargo in 2008 and made a hefty profit for himself. But one little noticed talent he had was finding new markets -- big markets -- for the bank to profit from. And he found one in Mexico. Between 2004 -- 2006 the Justice Department claimed that he found a market while at Wachovia that exceeded $370 Billion dollars. That is a lot of tacos. And every transaction he got a little taste. Now that is my kind of banker. Little issue...that big market was laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels. Oops...a little Wachovia feaux pas that Wells Fargo had to clean up with boys at Justice. No biggie. They just had to pay a fine. For laundering $370 Billion dollars the bank only had to pay a $50 M fine and forfeit $110 Million dollars. We love that. That's like stealing a six pack from a 7 -- 11, getting caught, and having to hand back over 1 beer—but you get to keep the other five!
But here is the part I like the best: After they paid the fine, in the settlement language they got to say they did nothing wrong...and then they said "they'll never do it again." I mean how sweet is that? I just love that language.
And nobody, least of all G. Ken Thompson was indicted, prosecuted or even bothered by the Justice Department. That is how it should be—look drug dealing is a business too....and they need bankers...and that creates a very profitable and grey area for everyone— but you need to be a visionary to see through the grey area to the green on the other side. And that visionary is G. Ken Thompson.