Bankers Make a Mockery of the Law, and No One Goes to Jail


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contibutor

It has happened again.  Several big banks have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar and are paying billions in fines for their admitted transgressions.

“On Wednesday, four large global banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland — pleaded guilty to a series of federal crimes over a scheme to manipulate the value of the world’s currencies. The Justice Department accused the banks of collusion in one of the largest and yet least regulated markets, noting that at one bank one trader remarked “the less competition the better.”

That lack of oversight, coupled with the pressure to squeeze profits from a relatively middling business, set the stage for this scandal, one that unfolded nearly every day for five years. The crimes described on Wednesday also painted the portrait of something more systemic: a Wall Street culture that enabled many big banks to break the law even after years of regulatory black marks after the crisis.” New York Times

These banksters have once again been fined billions of dollars, but not a single executive is going to jail.  How can a corporate “person” admit to multiple felonies and not go to jail?  Some of these felons have been “caught” before and are repeat offenders.  I guess we should be happy that least this time the Justice Department forced the parent companies to be named.

“In announcing the cases, the Justice Department emphasized that the banks’ parent companies entered the guilty pleas rather than a subsidiary, representing a new frontier in efforts to punish Wall Street misdeeds.” New York Times  I have asked this question before, but it bears repeating.  Could any other person admit to multiple felonies and not expect some jail time?

The New York Times reported that the banks worked hard to make sure that they could keep doing business as usual, even after admitting to multiple felonies.

“For the banks, though, life as a felon is likely to carry more symbolic shame than practical problems. Although they could be barred by American regulators from certain activities, the banks scrambled behind the scenes to persuade those regulators to grant exemptions. That process, which delayed the Justice Department’s announcement by a week, already led to the Securities and Exchange Commission providing a number of waivers that allow the banks to conduct business as usual.” New York Times

It amazes me that the Securities and Exchange Commission would allow waivers to these felons who have shown time and again a disregard for our laws.  I wonder how many former employees of these felonious banks are on the Securities and Exchange Commission?

As we have written about before, the fines that these felons are ordered to pay are often tax-deductible and the actual out-of-pocket fine is much smaller than advertised. The taxpayers and the shareholders are the ones paying for these felons to continue their illegal activities.  It seems obvious that no matter how large the fines are, they have not induced lawful behavior from the felonious banks.

What will it take for the Justice Department to actually prosecute these repeat offenders and put them in jail?  Will jailing some bank executives cause a change in the banks repeated illegal activities?

If the Justice Department refuses to jail any executive, is there a way the executives could be fined personally?  Something needs to be done to stop these felons from continuing to fleece the marketplace.   What do you think?

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