Faux Toughness

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini1 Comment

It’s a tad better but still I remain unimpressed by the UBS felony conviction. Because the big fish are still not in jail.

Don’t be mislead by this:

UBS on Wednesday became the first big global bank in more than two decades to have a subsidiary plead guilty to fraud.

UBS, the Swiss bank, scrambled until the last minute to avoid that fate. A week ago, in a bid for leniency over interest-rate manipulation, the bank’s chairman traveled to Washington to plead his case to the Justice Department, according to people briefed on the matter. Knowing the long odds, the chairman, Axel Weber, asked the criminal division for a lighter punishment.

But the government did not budge. With support from Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.  the agency’s criminal division decided the bank’s actions were simply too egregious, people briefed on the matter said.

On Wednesday, UBS announced it would plead guilty to one count of felony wire fraud as part of a broader settlement. With federal prosecutors, British, Swiss and American regulators secured about $1.5 billion in fines, more than triple the only other rate-rigging case, against Barclays. The Justice Department also filed criminal charges against two former UBS traders. [emphasis added]

Fines don’t impress me because the costs just get passed on to the shareholders and, especially with banks, on to consumers. I get a bit of solace from the criminal charges against two traders — because if they go to jail then there will be a message to other traders that the same fate could await them. But, top CEOs need to be jailed before we come close to stopping this from happening again.


  1. You are right; no one who’s already earned millions (zillions!) by breaking the law will be deterred by these fines. Ten years ago, a guy snatched my purse in a supermarket parking lot. He got the $20 in my wallet and when he was caught, 15 years in state prison. (He’d robbed others similarly.) And yet those responsible for corporate dishonesty that robs people of far more are still enjoying life as always. Here’s a new category: “Too big to jail.”

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