NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --Sometimes it pays to be a victim.
While outraged people in the U.S. clamor for the jailing of top U.S. financial executives, it is worth noting that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, has received quite an image boost from the 10 years he has spent in prison.
While Khodorkovsky almost certainly committed all kinds of crimes amid the chaos that ensued following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he is widely viewed -- and probably rightly so -- as having been singled out for punishment by Russian president Vladimir Putin because he posed a threat to Putin's power.
Now that he has received Putin's pardon, Khodorkovsky is probably better-positioned than ever to do anything he wants -- whether that means mounting a challenge to Putin's power, living a quiet life as a rich man anywhere in the world, or joining Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Bono on the save-the-world celebrity circuit.
Meanwhile the Dimons and Blankfeins are widely hated, with regulators constantly breathing down their necks.
It seems unlikely these financial kingpins, or any of the other subprime mortgage profiteers, will ever face jail time, even though, as Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Federal District Court in Manhattan has persuasively argued, some of them probably should.
That's largely because they, unlike Khodorkovsky, live and do business in a country where it is extraordinarily difficult to put a rich person in jail. If O.J. Simpson can kill two people with a knife and get away with it thanks to the genius of his high-priced defense lawyers, how much easier is it when your weapon of choice is a credit default swap?