You don’t have to look further than the utterly pathetic game of repeated “stay-out-of-jail” cards handed the global banker elite to understand why people are pissed—whether in the U.S., Greece or pick a country. Time after time, the guys who cratered the economy, and robbed people of their jobs and wealth, are given a pass on their behavior—and not only that, shareholders get to pay for their crimes and misdemeanors. It happened again.

Another sham “punishment”:

Barclays has agreed to pay more than $450 million to resolve accusations that it attempted to manipulate key interest rates, the first settlement in a sprawling global investigation involving many of the world’s biggest banks.

The British bank struck a deal with regulators in Washington and London, as well as the Justice Department. The settlement is seen as the first in a series of potential cases against other major financial firms.

This is not change. In fact, this kind of settlement guarantees one thing: it will happen again. The message to these guys is simple: if you do this again, you will not lose your freedom–meaning, go to jail — and you will not even lose your jobs. Indeed, we will help raise your level of mirth, comfort and happiness because, while you sock away more pay and benefits to buy your 3rd or 4th mansion, the SHAREHOLDERS will pay for your misdeeds.

This is crony capitalism defined. And the regulators–and political leadership–is simply reinforcing the game. Not that it’s surprising.

The secondary game is jailing what I call the “little fish”–the crooks who engaged in insider trading. That’s not to excuse insider trading–it’s a crime–and it’s good that Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat K. Gupta are going to jail.

But the bigger crimes committed that have imposed austerity and joblessness on millions of people go unpunished–unpunished as in Lloyd Blankfein is still a free man. As I wrote in 2010, Goldman Sachs got away with a slap on the wrist, as did J.P. Morgan a year later, and the people who engineered these frauds are free men.

Remember the words of Sen. Carl Levin:

“Our investigation found a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing,”[emphasis added]

Fines are irrelevant.

Jail the crooks

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Jonathan Tasini


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