James Moore: It seems the big beasts of banking really are too big to jail after all
Outlook US Attorneys certainly have a neat line in soundbites. "A Tour de Fraud," is how Preet Bharara described the conduct of French bank BNP as he and his colleagues confirmed what we all knew: BNP will pay a record $9bn for its alleged involvement in sanctions busting.
It was a neat little sideswipe at the old rival from across the Atlantic. But the assertion that "no bank is too big to jail", a play on "too big to fail", doesn't so easily stand up to scrutiny.
BNP as an institution is getting hammered as the "worst offender" when it comes to sanctions busting. The American authorities alleged some extremely cynical conduct on its part and will ban it from cleaning dollar-based transactions for a time in addition to the fine.
But despite claiming that the misconduct was known about at very senior levels we aren't going to see any senior BNP people donning orange jumpsuits ahead of uncomfortable stays at Riker's Island Penitentiary.
Some 45 employees have been disciplined – and 13 are out of the door, including chief operating officer Georges Chodron de Courcel – but that's as far as it goes.
The penalty meted out to BNP is certainly substantial enough for the bank – and its peers – to take seriously.
It might even encourage BNP's shareholders to consider whether they could have done more to avert it by exercising proper oversight.
But if the misconduct at BNP was as serious as prosecutors have alleged, if laws were wilfully broken, why are individuals not being called to account as well as the institution?
Of course we've been here before. This latest affair will simply reinforce the perception that individual bankers, thanks to their wealth and power, have been allowed to "get away with it" despite all the chest thumping from the various authorities in the US.
It's true charges have been pressed against a number of those alleged to have been involved in some of the other recent high-profile scandals, but they are largely relative small fry in terms of banking hierarchies.
The senior executives responsible for setting policies, and culture – the men who run the show – as ever have successfully hidden behind committee-based decision-making and the repeated assertions that they didn't know what was going on under their own noses.
Prosecutors have lacked either the wherewithal, or the will (or both) to bring cases against them. It appears that the big beasts of banking really are too big to jail.
Which is why it's still easier to find a banker willing to turn up to work in a baseball cap and a football shirt (either the American or our kind) than it is to find them in those jumpsuits.
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
- 3 Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
- 4 Mafia's wall of silence broken: Victim of Cosa Nostra's extortion rackets in its Corleone heartland co-operates with authorities for the first time ever
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Mafia's wall of silence broken: Victim of Cosa Nostra's extortion rackets in its Corleone heartland co-operates with authorities for the first time ever
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...
£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...