With a sense of weary recognition and déjà vu, we scan the screaming headlines and learn that banks are once again due for ‘record fines’ for their latest bit of misbehaviour – just the latest episode to be discovered, of course. Apparently this particular activity was being conducted just down the corridor while other parts of the same financial institutions were being censured for their misdoings. Said corridor of course being virtual as the collusion all took place via an internet chat room. Might as well stick posters up all round the office. These lads clearly aren’t the brightest cards in the pack.
This does not of course in any way tell us just how much more banking ‘bad behaviour’ is yet to be revealed, let alone that which will never be discovered. And once again we learn that while the crime was carried out on their watch, the heads of those reprobate financial institutions which are about to be charged ‘record fines’ (repetition intentional), have defended their grossly inflated bonuses that clearly are not remotely linked to output, productivity and efficiency. If we’re lucky we get a solemn apology.
This latest piece of grand larceny was uncovered and prosecuted by the US authorities and we are now told that the fines levied will be a great boost to the Exchequer. What a merry- go-round this all is. As far as I understand it goes like this:
Our ‘light touch’ regulation attracts the banking industry to London, so that it is free to maximise profits and with the aid of the leading accountants ensure it pays the minimum amount of tax. The light touch means that the banks are allowed to operate with a giant honesty box by the front door, which for some reason never even gets a ducat nodded in its direction. It also means that a number of macho, power- fuelled thieves – for that is what they are – are allowed to form little friendship groups with pumped-up names (e.g. The Cartel/The Three Musketeers) and take other people’s money (purleeze, not hard working families again) so as to increase their employers’ profits and thereby earn bigger bonuses, which the leading firms of accountants will help them to manage so as to pay as little tax as possible.
Then our gallant heroes make a wrong move and the whole scam is found out. There follow prosecutions and fines, although for some reason the actual thieves always escape imprisonment or any proper censure. The fines are charged to the institutions themselves; funny that – when I was at school and did something wrong, I got the lines and detentions, not the teachers, and apologising didn’t somehow obviate the need for punishment. These fines go to the Exchequer, which gets the tax boost that could have been generated in the first place by proper regulation. But what about all the poor souls who were paying more for their mortgage/foreign exchange, or earning a lower rate from their investments than had been promised? Somehow they don’t get remunerated or compensated. Instead their money is funnelled straight to the Chancellor, on top of the taxes they have already paid.
We are all cautioned that ‘The value of your investments may do down as well as up, and there is no guarantee you will get back what you invested’.
Strange, I don’t remember ever seeing a warning that ‘The probity of your investors may go down as well as up, and there is no guarantee that we will deal honestly with your money’.