That used to be a statement of certainty. Americans once considered the bank a place of safety for their money; an island of certainty in an uncertain world. No longer. With the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, banks have become little more than high-end casinos – only casinos have some semblance of integrity.
When banks lost their high-stakes bets in 2008, they collapsed our economy. And, in an act of unparalleled hubris, they turned to taxpayers to help them avoid bankruptcy. Instead of paying a significant price for their wantonness, the “too-big-to-fail” banks continued with business as usual, even continuing to pay their executives six and seven-figure bonuses. Meanwhile, other Americans slogged through the greatest recession in history, losing as much as $7 trillion through a combination of home foreclosures, lost salaries, lost interest and lost pensions.
And who made off with most of that money? Why Wall Street, of course.
Given their recent history, one would expect that at least some of the bankers who caused the problems would have been convicted of crimes. They weren’t. Instead, they have continued to profit. Worse, they have continued to game the system. They continue to oppose the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. They continue to oppose the Consumer Protection Agency. And they continue to gamble with your money.
In fact, since the banking collapse of 2008, bankers seem to have upped their game; engaging in numerous financial scams and committing outright crimes. To wit: UBS paid $2.3 billion in fines when it was discovered that one of its traders hid €5 billion in losses. Wells Fargo paid $175 million to settle accusations that it discriminated against African-Americans and Hispanic borrowers. JPMorgan Chase gambled $2 billion and lost nearly $6 billion. Barclays paid $450 million to settle charges that it manipulated LIBOR, the global interest rate, and UBS paid $1.5 billion to settle similar charges. USBC paid $1.9 billion to settle a money laundering probe. And Barclays was recently fined £284,432,000 for its role in rigging the foreign exchange market.
Though the banks have admitted to felonies and paid billions in fines, they have yet to pay any real penalty. As far as I can tell, only two bankers have gone to jail. And the rest are unrepentant. Indeed, a recent poll of Wall Street traders found that a significant percentage would be willing to commit a crime if it resulted in a payback of $10 million. (Keep in mind that, on Wall Street, $10 million is chump change.)
But instead of cracking down on the banksters, a GOP-controlled Congress seems determined to deregulate Wall Street. (They know who butters their bread or, more precisely, makes the majority of their campaign contributions.) So you don’t have to be a financial expert to know that there will be many more scandals to come.
You can take that to the bank…er…mattress…or whatever.