Outlook: Americans are no better off – their lawyers are just richer
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Thursday 12 December 2013
Outlook Every time a bank, particularly one part-owned by the taxpayer, is engulfed in a humdinging scandal like this, one wonders: would they behave so badly if we had a US-style legal system? Would the bankers bin their morals so quickly if they knew a super-brainy, super-greedy army of lawyers was waiting in the wings to rip their legs off in court?
In the US, by lunchtime yesterday a queue of law firms with names like Grabbit, Trouser and Snivel would have launched class action lawsuits against Lloyds, Eric Daniels, Helen Weir, the auditors, the accountants, the cleaning lady. And they would have done so in the name of all the bank's hundreds of thousands of shareholders. Literally.
They would have acted in the knowledge that, were the bank to try to fight them, it would be facing a jury. And most juries are not entirely keen on bankers. In the UK, we don't have such class actions because to launch a group claim here, each and every alleged victim has to sign a client letter and pay up-front. In the US, you can just declare yourself as acting on behalf of all shareholders. Meanwhile, by reducing legal aid availability, the UK government has killed off many other potential cases by the public against corporates (and, by happy coincidence, against the government.)
It's easy to conclude, then, that the US consumer is far more empowered than we Brits to take on the giant companies who abuse us. But then you look at the scandals and rip-offs emanating from US banks, combined with how Washington always seems to favour Wall Street over Main Street, and you realise Americans are probably no safer than we are, but their lawyers are considerably richer.
- 1 Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
- 2 London is the most googled city in the world
- 3 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
- 5 Richard Dawkins ridicules Sabrina Corgatelli for claiming her giraffe kill was 'ethical'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
iJobs Money & Business
£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...