There is no shortage of “conspiracy theorists” that blame the “centralized banking system” for all of the evils of the world. Often citing a clandestine cabal of bankers for manipulating world events and even wars for profit. Then along comes “The Cartel,” who according to new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “starting as early as Dec 2007, currency traders at several multinational banks formed a group dubbed ‘The Cartel.’ It is perhaps fitting that those traders chose that name, as it aptly describes the brazenly illegal behavior they were engaging in on a near-daily basis.”
AG Lynch describes the case as a “brazen display of collusion” in which currency traders at Citicorp, JPMorgan, Barclays and RBS used a chat room to manipulate exchange rates to benefit themselves. The financial giants Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS AG have agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay more than $5.5 billion in collective penalties. The traders actions “inflated the banks’ profits while harming countless consumers, investors and institutions around the globe — from pension funds to major corporations, and including the banks’ own customers,” Lynch said.
The criminal settlements are the result of a global crackdown on systematic manipulation of financial benchmarks by bank traders. However, no individual bank employees were hit with criminal charges as part of the settlements. Several authorities have said that investigations into foreign-exchange issues are continuing though. Jimmy Gurulé a former assistant attorney general and Treasury official, now a University of Notre Dame law professor, questions whether the criminal pleas and massive fines would produce meaningful change in banks’ activities.
“Once again the actual perpetrators and criminal architects of the fraud scheme will avoid criminal liability,” said Gurulé. “While the payment of these large fines may help to reduce the federal deficit, such penalties will do little to change the pervasive culture of corruption that currently exists in the banking sector. Real change will only occur when corrupt bank officials are indicted, convicted and sent to prison for their crimes.”
Bank officials took responsibility for the illegal activity and terminated dozens of traders. Responses from each of the financial institutions expressed “disappointment,” “embarrassment” and “appropriate disciplinary actions” for the “unacceptable behavior” of a “small group of employees.”
Investor reaction to the settlements appears to be mixed with shares of Barclays, UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland going up at least 1.9% on Wednesday while Citigroup and JPMorgan shares each fell 0.8%.