From profit to prosecution?


"Systematic greed", "lying for profit", "outraged and disgusted"*. There's been no shortage of angry rhetoric from politicians about the latest banking scandal.

However, what they know the public really wants is not to hear words but to see the guilty lose their jobs and, if criminality is proved, to lose their freedom too. Since 2008 American financiers have been seen doing what they call on the other side of the pond the "perp walk". In other words, they've been filmed head bowed, wrists cuffed, arms held by police officers en route to the court house or the police station. The only perp walk we've seen in Britain has been the giving of evidence to the Treasury select committee (Barclays' Bob Diamond's likely to be taking it the week after next) or the letter from Buckingham Palace to the banker formerly known as Sir Fred Goodwin.

There's a reason for this. Prosecutions are easy to talk about but, it seems, harder to achieve. There is no specific criminal offence of rigging the Libor market. Today Labour and the Tories argued about who was to blame.

Labour said they'd raised the issue a few weeks ago only to be told there were no plans to change the law. They said that the rules were set by Margaret Thatcher's government when she de-regulated the City in the so-called Big Bang of 1986.

The Tories shot back that it had been the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls who, as City Minister in the late 1990s, had boasted of light touch regulation and missed a chance to introduce tougher controls. Smiles were brought to the face of Tories inside the Treasury when the little known Lord Tunnicliffe, Labour's Deputy Chief Whip in the Lords, made the mistake of assuming that no-one listens to what's said in the House of Lords. He declared with refreshing candour:

"Criminal sanctions are extraordinarily difficult to bring about because of the burden of criminal law. It is fair to say though that you can't find them in the current legislation. And, yes, OK, it's our fault."

He added quickly: "I hope my leaders don't hear me say that."

They did and he was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn, declaring: "I've now looked into this matter and I was wrong."

Both Labour and the Tories say that the best hope of prosecutions is not the Financial Services Authority - which can and has fined the bank but can't pursue individuals in this case - but the Serious Fraud Office. The SFO can, apparently, pursue cases involving publishing false information or fraudulent trading.

We'll see. Without them the public may regard words as a little hollow.

* The words are those of Chancellor George Osborne, chairman of the Treasury select committee Andrew Tyrie and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    "There must surely be a reckoning one day for the loss and agony that the credit crunch has inflicted – and is still inflicting – on millions of innocent victims. But as we seek out the guilty men, we should know that as long as banking retains its stranglehold on policy, the disaster will continue"

    Simon Jenkins has nailed that - though the same could apply to parts of the media

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    This has been a collective failure... everyone of us is in one way or another culpable.

    You disagree?

    You have an internet connection - use it!

    Use it to complain. Only a collective rejection of this abhorrent system will be noticed by politicians. Otherwise, your just another lone voice... shrieking to yourself.

    Post your rejection of the status quo... I'll read it.

    And so will others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    If the Numpty NewLabourites left, or alternatively a new Party was formed by the decent, honest, representatives of people - Frank Field is a name that has come up today - a True Labour Party, for the ordinary bloke and blokess, then even if I didn't join, I think I could and would want to vote for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    The financial institutions are self serving, Shareholders/pension funds are being short changed whilst high risk policies are pursued in the name of the bonus culture.

    Any sanctions on the bank are merely offset against their future contributions to policing the system and costs are recovered from depositors and retail customers.

    The system is profoundly rotten

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    snuff 217

    Yes, it's a key function to connect those with capital to those who need it, but the sector mushroomed into something bloated and deeply corrupt, driven by the self-interest of participants rather than delivering a good service at a fair price.

    billy 221

    That too, definitely. All those defeats 79 to 92, fed by a hostile media (esp. the Murdoch press), left NL scared and scarred.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    ROFL ...

    as da yoof sa!

    Actually one of the best riposte posts I have ever seen.



    'Tis now printed out and on the wall!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    204. John_Bull

    So to add some context; they thought Thatcher was right,
    Or maybe they looked at what digger did to Kinnock and thought sod that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    What is interesting on Big Bang in particular (and the banking scandals coming to light) is:
    1. The regular warnings given (especially to the Tories about the BB & its faults) 1986, 1987, 1989, Credit Swizz, Leeson, et al, and
    2. It took a real coalescing of various factors - some inputted by the Govt of the day - to stress test banks and banking in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    jh66 @ 216

    And your experience is most probably representative - i.e. many immigrants are indeed opposed to further immigration into the UK.

    Can't be sure this is true but I'd be surprised if it isn't.

    'Zip up the borders' might be a reactionary and wrong-headed view but it's widespread, I fully recognise that, and so there's no reason why immigrants themselves should be immune from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    The banks get away with murder and the markets are up, doesn't that tell you something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Well, living in Hampstead has to be paid for somehow ;-).

    But you should well know that as well as abuses, investment banking is a many splendoured thing, some times building jobs, careers, pensions, etc., smoothing or enabling all sorts of trades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    #215 Sagamix

    This thread seems to have drifted off-topic, but in my experience many immigrants are opposed to further immigration into the UK, particularly from non-Commonwealth countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    John B @ 211

    We need to separate fact from opinion.

    It's a fact that Labour chose not to use tight immigration controls as a way of appealing to white working class voters. In my opinion they were right not to do so.

    Whereas you (and Frank Field) think otherwise.

    So it's me against you and Frank on this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Thought of the following election slogan whilst I was walking across London Bridge this evening:

    "Knighted by Labour
    Jailed by the Tories"

    It is in the political interests of the Conservative Party that there are criminal prosecutions (under due process, according to the evidence, etc.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    I think this is it.

    Cameron's government can fail to act symbolically, but if they do, they may be wiped out for a generation.

    However, if they do not so act, but still get re-elected, then their electorate deserves all it gets, and has had to date.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Bankers (et al wealthy political sponsoring tax dodgers) will simply continue to make hay while the sun shines.

    No-one ever has the bottle to sack anyone & wages, bonuses and social circles of these people mock 'We're all in this together'

    As usual, news for a week which deflects away from some other issue never to be resolved

    Laws and taxes should not be selective on class or social circles

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.


    "immigration no problem"

    I didn't have a problem with it Saga (for reasons that you would refuse to accept) but it didn't do much for the average working class Labour voter did it? Hence 2 obnoxious BNP MEPs in my neck of the woods. Frank Field was right to say that Labour ignored its core constituencies & left too many languishing on benefits, isn't he?

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Hole in one J_B. New Labour's mistake was to become too much like the Tories. Excellent analysis.
    Trouble is we are now in the grip of a Tory led coalition government. Perhaps you can see why some of us are concerned?
    Re immigration. Those who want it and feel they benefit from it are still in the driving seat despite cross party popularist pandering. Ed placed on 'negative watch'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.


    "Strictly Pickled - Are you a member of the RSPB?"

    No. But since Ed MIliband became leader I'm definitely thinking about joining .... he'd make a good member, swanning around, ducking the issues and generally behaving like a t*t.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    J Bull 204

    A touch jaundiced for my taste, that summary. But I do agree that NL embracing the Thatcherite agenda (e.g. on the City) was a grave error.

    High immigration, however, is firmly on the credit side of the ledger (and I don't applaud Ed's recent change of tone on the issue). Net benefit to the country, economically, socially. Immigration control isn't the way to protect the low paid.


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