Citi, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and The Royal Bank of Scotland have agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of US dollar and the Euro – while UBS will plead guilty to separate interest rate rigging charges. The banks will pay almost $6 billion in fines, however, the effectiveness of the fines must be questioned when the banks almost certainly made a profit from their illegal activities.
Authorities discovered that between December 2007 and January 2013, traders at Citi, JPMorgan, Barclays, and RBS were using coded language to set benchmark rates in chat rooms – whilst referring to themselves as ‘The Cartel’. The invitation only group had other bankers desperate to join – trialists were lead to believe there were severe consequences if you f**ked up. One trader was given a one month trial and told “mess this up and sleep with one eye open at night”.
One member of the chat room, wrote this regarding their illegal activities:
If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.
The fine might appear to be a lot, however, Peter Hahn from The Cass Business School questioned the effectiveness of fining banks. Victims of the fraud receive no compensation for the banks’ behaviour, and the banks don’t lose any business from being fined. (Which is ultimately all they really care about).
Speaking to the BBC he explained:
If I get hit by a bus, I don’t want London Transport to be held responsible, I want the driver to be held responsible. I could have got a bad exchange rate on my credit card when I went on holiday to Europe. If my pension fund owns shares in this bank, I lose again. Do I get any of the settlement? Who gets it? Who’s responsible?
It is extraordinary to think you can go to jail for downloading the odd film or album illegally (I don’t condone piracy) – however, these bankers continue to con millions of ordinary people out of money they’ve earned, break the law, and just pay a few fines. The reason they keep doing it is because they end up making a profit overall, it’s that simple. All they care about is the bottom line.
Is it time we did more to prevent these crimes from occurring? Should those responsible go to jail for their actions?