Last week BuzzFlash at Truthout appeared to be one of the only websites to notice that Barclays engaged in a pre-meditated fraudulent interest-rigging scheme that affected trillions of dollars in transactions – and got off with a $450 million fine but no criminal charges against the individuals involved.

As we pointed out in our headline above that commentary, you can go to jail for smoking pot (or kiting a couple of small checks), but apparently the Department of Justice believes that defrauding people in trillions of dollars of transactions is not a punishable crime for those involved in the Barclays executive suite

Today, it was announced that the chairman of the Barclays board resigned, but still no hint of any legal action against all those senior execs involved in the crime.

That’s worth remembering given the announcement that the Big Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline will plead guilty and accept a whopping “$3 billion to resolve federal criminal and civil inquiries arising from the company’s illegal promotion of some of its products, its failure to report safety data and alleged false price reporting,” according to USA Today.

According to the article:

Under the terms of the plea agreement, GSK(GSK) will pay a total of $1 billion, including a criminal fine of $956,814,400. The company also will pay $2 billion to resolve civil claims under the federal government’s False Claims Act.

“GSK’s sales force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations to paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours to a European pheasant hunt to tickets to Madonna concerts, and this is just to name a few,” said Carmin M. Ortiz, U.S. attorney in Massachusetts.

“Today’s multibillion-dollar settlement is unprecedented in both size and scope,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said. “At every level, we are determined to stop practices that jeopardize patients’ health, harm taxpayers, and violate the public trust – and this historic action is a clear warning to any company that chooses to break the law.”

“For far too long, we have heard that the pharmaceutical industry views these settlements merely as the cost of doing business,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery, head of Justice’s civil division, vowed at a news conference. “That is why this administration is committed to using every available tool to defeat health care fraud.”

But it gets worse:

Justice Department officials also said that between 2001 and 2007 GlaxoSmithKline failed to report to the FDA on safety data from certain post-marketing studies and from two studies of the cardiovascular safety of the diabetes drug Avandia. Since 2007, the FDA has added warnings to the Avandia label to alert doctors about potential increased risk of congestive heart failure and heart attack.

That means people likely died because of information that GlaxoSmithKline withheld, not to mention the victims of its off-label (unapproved) marketing of drugs such as Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal and Zofran.

The key question hear for the Department of Justice is if it “is committed to using every available tool to defeat health care fraud” why isn’t it prosecuting corporate executives for criminal acts?

Our jails are full of people who are merely users of illegal drugs (including marijuana), but if you oversee a scheme to massively profit from the use of prescription drugs that can kill or medically harm people, you just get a warning and a fine paid by your shareholders.

As US citizens we are just supposed to take this pill of injustice and swallow it.

Mark Karlin

Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout.  He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for ten years before joining Truthout in 2010.  BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards.