The 47 scandals that prove governments would be mad to go soft on banks

19th November 2015

In an important speech given at the Finance Watch conference in Brussels on Tuesday,Robert Jenkins — a former member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee — highlighted the dangers of a two-tier justice system in which senior bankers are effectively ‘above the law’. He also said that 47 banking scandals and the feeble nature of most post-crisis financial reforms suggest that governments around the world would be ill-advised to cave in to the demands of bankers and finance sector lobbyists seeking a return to ‘business as usual’  .........As you have heard I had the honour to serve at the Bank of England. It was an exciting time. The banking system was undercapitalized. Greece threatened the eurozone. The eurozone threatened the banking system. The bankers threatened the politicians – lest the politicians threaten the bankers. And as I left, political leaders were leaning on the regulators not to lean too heavily on the banks.  “Too big to fail, bail and jail” summed up the challenge. Capital and accountability framed the regulatory response. There has been much activity. But though the motion has been great, the movement has not. Leverage remains high and accountability low. Sadly, the courage to address either seems lacking.  Capital, accountability and courage. All other issues pale in comparison. Allow me a word about each.......


I will start with capital. We continue to work our way through the greatest credit bubble in history. Now bubbles are not new. They are always the same – and always a little bit different. They always feature heavy doses of greed, stupidity and leverage. What distinguished our recent episode from all past experiences was the degree and magnitude of leverage. Now we will not abolish greed. We cannot outlaw stupidity. But we can and must address excessive leverage. Have we done so? No.........


If capital is vital to the survival of our market system, accountability is critical to its legitimacy. That bankers behaved badly in the run up to the melt-down is old news. That corporate culture was a culprit is now consensus. We have just heard our panelists’ thoughts on incentivising good behaviour. Let me say a word about an equal or greater need for disincentives to bad behaviour.

An ethics-free zone?

But before considering what’s to be done let us recall the magnitude of what financiers did. The charge sheet of misdeeds – both acknowledged and alleged is lengthy. Here is a partial list:

 Mis-selling of payment protection insurance

 Mis-selling interest rate swaps

 Mis-selling credit card theft insurance

 Mis-selling of mortgage-backed securities

 Mis-selling of municipal bond investment strategies

 Mis-selling of structured deposit investments

 Mis-selling of foreign exchange products

 Fraud related to the packaging and selling of mortgage-backed securities that institutions knew to be “toxic waste”

 Misleading statements to investors involving capital raising rights issue

 Misleading investors in the sale of collateralised debt obligations

 Abusive small business lending practices

 Predatory mortgage practices

 Abusive or in inappropriate foreclosure practices

 Aiding and abetting tax evasion

 Aiding and abetting money laundering for violent drug cartels

 Violations of rogue-regime sanctions

 Manipulation of Euribor

 Manipulation of FX markets

 Manipulation of gold fixing (London)

 Manipulation of commodity markets via metals warehousing practices

 Manipulation of electricity markets (California/JPMorgan)

 Manipulation of the swaps market benchmark index (ISDAfix)

 Collusion relating to credit default swap market dealing in violation of US anti-trust laws

 Filing false statements with the SEC (“London Whale”, JPMorgan)

 Keeping false books and records (“London Whale”, JP Morgan and others)

 Reporting failures relating to Madoff

 Withholding of critical information from Italian regulators

 Bribing civil service employees in Japan

 Mis-reporting related to Barclays emergency capital raising

 Stealing confidential regulatory information by a banker

 Collusion with Greek authorities to mislead EU policy makers on meeting Euro criteria (Goldman Sachs)

 Financial engineering with the aim of moving Italian debt off-balance sheet

 Manipulation of risk models with the aim of minimizing reported RWA / capital requirements

 Manipulation of precious metals markets (gold/silver/platinum/palladium – Switzerland)

 Manipulation / collusion of the US Treasury Market auction/client sales

 Manipulation of energy markets

 Short changing clients a second time in not paying settlements in full

 Violations connected with emergency fund raisings

 Electronic FX trading related market manipulation (NY DFS investigation)

 Falsifying customer data and records (RBS and others)

 Misleading clients over dark pools (Barclays and others)

 Misleading shareholders ahead of RBS rights issue

 Misleading shareholder information with respect to Lloyds takeover of HBOS and RBS’s rights issues

 Conspiracy to force small businesses into bankruptcy to the benefit of the lender (RBS, Lloyds and others)

 Insertion of illegal rate floors in Spanish mortgage lending

 Faking customer files to justify predatory foreclosure practices

 Misleading profit and capital statements based on questionable accounting practices............

And what has been done? Well, there has been a lot of breast beating on the topic. Hearings have been held. Commissions have been commissioned. Investigations have been legion. Large fines are frequent. But no bank has lost its banking license. No senior has gone to jail. No management team has been prosecuted. No board or supervising executive has been financially ruined. Many have kept their jobs, their salaries, their pensions and their perks.  Among those dismissed, very few have been banned from the field for the future. As to the fines, they have been paid by the shareholders, not by the perpetrators. No doubt some executives see these as a cost of doing business; and politicians – a handy source of revenue. Few believe them to be an effective deterrent. Perhaps it provides a perverse incentive. Message to wayward youth: go back to school – there’s more money at less risk in white collar crime! more