Outlook: Americans are no better off – their lawyers are just richer
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 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 3 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
iJobs Money & Business
£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...