Attorney General Eric Holder re-ignited the discussion about some banks being too big to fail with his comments last week.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing in today's New York Times, seems to support the idea by pointing to some examples of business failures that had a substantial impact that went beyond a paper loss in the stock market. He uses as an example the case of Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant that got caught up in the Enron debacle. When the company was indicted and then went under, 28,000 people lost their jobs.
I can see Holder's point that some businesses might need to be immune to indictment or prosecution because of the overall economic impact that might ensue. But if companies can't be prosecuted, then certainly people should be -- especially those whose greed or arrogance caused them to do things in a company's name that are illegal or unethical.
Big fines and penalties should be imposed on companies who behave badly, although perhaps not so stiff that they might knock the company out of business. But the people doing the bad things and those knowingly allowing them to happen -- even at the very highest management levels -- should be held accountable with the real theat of huge fines and real jail time. Perhaps those threats will make businesspeople think carefully before treading close to or over the line of legality and ethics.
No individual should be too big to fail.