Banksters: A story of crime and punishment

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Big story from that razzle-dazzle place called “El Casino Grande” — otherwise known as Wall Street.

Four massive financial conglomerates — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland — have been caught in a criminal conspiracy to rig the global currency market. Bank regulators have now slapped them with an equally massive fine, totaling $5.4 billion.

The financial felons coordinated their illegal currency manipulation scheme through online chat rooms with devilmay-care names like “The Cartel” and “The Mafia.” The banks’ culture of greed led to such a reckless arrogance that one of Barclays price-fixers offered this bit of ethical encouragement to his chat room pals: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

Well, taking a $5 billion hit will put an end to that sort of reprobate banksterism, won’t it? Mmmmm… no. While this was the first time that banks themselves had to admit that they are corporate criminals, all of them are free to continue doing currency trading, and no top executives were even charged for the crimes they oversaw. And, while $5 billion is a huge, record-level criminal penalty, it’s easily absorbed by these global casino operations. In the first three months of this year, for example, JPMorgan Chase raked in $4 billion just from its fixed income and currency trading division — about seven times its share of the “penalty” levied against the four corporate crooks.

Citigroup’s CEO called the punishment “an embarrassment” to his bank. But banks can’t feel embarrassed, nor can they commit crimes — only bankers can. And, as should be obvious by now, being embarrassed is no deterrent at all to their endlessly creative criminality. If we actually want to stop their crimes, the banksters themselves — including those at the top — must feel the punishment.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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