PBS, May 20, 2015: The usual suspects have now been fined
more heavily than previously, billions of dollars this time, for
manipulating international currency markets, according to
a young reporter for Bloomberg this evening. She also
reminded us that, as impressive as the amounts are, this
spate of fines will ostensibly not impact these mega banks'
bottom lines; indeed, execs at these institutions have known
the ax was about to drop and have had funds allocated and
accumulating for several years to pay said fines...whew!
No one has been arrested yet, which is par for the course,
although a FEW wretched Wall Street miscreants have been
jailed in the past.
The current financial scandal, serious and sinister as it is,
isn't new. The rigged trading involving five of the world's
biggest banks occurred from 2007 to 2013. Corporate
units of Citicorp, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, the Royal
Bank of Scotland, and indefatigable UBS have been cited
by the DOJ, the FED and other U.S. and European
authorities, hence the hefty fines, which won't, sadly,
badly hinder these behemoths by much. As Simon
Johnson at MIT has so memorably said in his books
and all around the media venues, breaking up the
behemoths is the only real way to reel in most of the
detrimental behavior...or resurrect regulatory walls
between investment, commercial, savings and checking
accounts, a la Glass-Steagall. (Dodd-Frank, a mildly
corrective palliative, passed only after most of its
important enforcement provisions were gutted.)
Just thinking about it takes my breath away--free
trade, anyone? What say you, Laissez Faire devotees
out there? For SIX YEARS the foreign exchange rates
(via the foreign exchange spot markets) between U.S.
and European currencies weren't real reflections of
the ebb and flow of that sainted monolith, the market.
I'll direct my special institutional ire at two of these
big boys, Chase and UBS, both of which are run by
two Americans: Chase's NYC giant Jamie Dimon
who also serves on the NY FED (hello SEC, do your
damn job, stop that) and UBS in Switzerland's Phil
Gramm, former Texas Senator and architect of
Glass-Steagall's demise. Both of these men should,
in my estimation, be in prison, as they contributed
materially to the Great Recession of 2007.
"As long as I got mine, don't care much for anybody else"
is the Wall Street Titans' credo, as well as their acolytes'.
Is such a sentiment worthy of the City on a Hill (per
Reagan, St. Augustine, St. Matthew)? It would seem
not. The United States is really little better than the
usual run of nations, although some of our PR is
inspiring, particularly evoked by our Founders.
To actually deserve such vaunted visions,
the U.S. could:
(1) Fix the SEC
(2) Fix the big banks but GOOD
(3) Stop hiding massive off-budget expenditures
Those three items realized equate to a tsunami-swept
revolution in the financial world, but everything the big
banks' boys do affects every one of us, even isolated
indigenous tribes worldwide...so let's revolt to a new,
more honest day, shall we?
Meanwhile, the banks' nine billion in fines appears mere
slaps on their collective wrists. Today's breaking news
DOES, however, have the value of raising resolve and
creating more questions...
I'm all for that.