It used to be easy to identify the bad guys. In the movies, they always wore black hats and or masks and the payroll-laden stage coach or bank was their most frequent victim. I remember feeling badly for the poor bank manager, constantly being held hostage for simply doing his job, while providing a necessary community service and trying to provide for his family. But today’s bankers are an entirely new breed, with their stellar salaries, golden parachutes, and most importantly, “get out of jail free” cards. White collar crime today doesn’t seem to be a crime at all. After the 2008 collapse, one would think that we’d learn from our mistakes, penalize those responsible, and make laws supporting appropriate correctional activities, in order to avoid an economic repeat. But instead, we reward the perpetrators, unilaterally increase the size, power, and potential danger of banks, and then quietly hand the bill to the American Tax Payer.
Eight years later, the fear instilled in bankers by this response is so debilitating that the global head of HSBC’s Foreign Exchange Cash Trading was arrested yesterday for foreign exchange manipulation and wire fraud. And this is occurring, while after more than a year later, markets are still grappling with the fallout that resulted in a guilty plea that got Barclay, Chase, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS a combined $6 billion slap on the wrist, for the rigging of currency benchmarks. Additionally, earlier this year, Deutsche Bank settled a civil suit with investors for a another paltry sum and the reasoning was that they agreed to provide all information regarding the involvement of others in the ploy, namely; HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia and UBS.
Meanwhile, our “justice” system continues to crank out absurd verdicts and rulings, such as a U.S. Appeals Court throwing out a $1.27 billion jury verdict against Bank of America for mortgage fraud, during the 2008 mortgage meltdown. As well as the Supreme Court decision to uphold a 1997 case which decided that executive branch agencies “have the authority to interpret the meaning of the regulations they write.” Essentially, that means that the judicial and legislative branches of our government will have no role writing or interpreting de facto laws created by the executive branch. That didn’t work out so well for Germany in the past, but hey! Best two out of three?