Bankers Under Your Bed
Years ago, parents would tell their children that unless they behaved, the boogeyman would get them. Then it was Michael Jackson. That one proved a little short-lived, though, as his death resulted in a huge retroactive change in opinion, the most widespread and insincere change of allegiance since Germany lost the war. Now it seems, at some point in the not-to-distant future, that when parents want to terrify their children into obedience, they will warn them that if they don’t obey, a banker will get them.
Bankers are quickly becoming perceived as the most hideous, inhuman collection of beings to prowl the earth. And for a very simple reason: they just may be. They have usurped lawyers as the Most Hated and Distrusted profession, the only difference being that where lawyers gained that crown by strict adherence to the rules, bankers are winning it through the more appropriate route of breaking them, consistently and thoroughly.
Unscrupulous behaviour by the banking and financial industry has recently led to the largest worldwide economic crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This was then directly responsible for millions of people losing their homes, their jobs and their livelihoods. Unemployment is reaching record levels in some areas, health, education and other public services are being cut, and people the world over are having to scrimp and save just to get by. And many aren’t getting by at all. Austerity has become a household term. This has been continuing for years and years, and shows no sign of coming right.
And so what happened to those responsible for breaking the world? Well, a variety of punishments were handed out, such as promotions, pay rises, careers in politics, new positions of greater responsibility, and massive bonuses. Now if that seems grossly unjust, it’s because it is. A great film came out in 2010 called Inside Job, which outlined in simple terms what happened and why, who the main players were and where they are now. Interviews were held on camera with several of the bigshots, who spewed lies and complete fabrications out of their slick suits and fancy offices, and when confronted with the well-researched and contradictory facts, generally got hostile and ended the interview. Evidence was raised of some of these people actually going back to try and alter historical records to show that they had been saying the exact opposite of what they were in fact telling people. And despite the fact that a large number of people were acting in blatantly criminal fashion, conducting massively widespread global fraud operations, the number of people who faced criminal charges at all has been amazingly low. Inconceivably close, in fact, to zero. In fact, the Department of Justice will not even admit to knowing the number.
Top bankers became the most hated people on the planet. And yet they remained firmly unrepentant. In fact, they not only refused to apologise or admit any wrongdoing, they backlashed against a culture of ‘banker-bashing’ and scapegoating. People couldn’t believe what they were hearing. But from way up in their ivory towers (or the modern day equivalent, those soaring glass skyscrapers), the bankers didn’t care. In 2011, Bob Diamond, the CEO of Barclays, a major bank in the UK, arrogantly told the Treasury Select Committee that the time for bankers to apologise was over, and that he resented the questions which were being put to him regarding the financial issue, despite it being a fully legitimate enquiry. The holier-than-thou attitude was flabbergasting, especially coming from a man who took home 8.5 million pounds in pay that year for the social service of destroying millions of poor peoples’ lives.
Until now, people have been more or less satisfied with a seething undercurrent of loathing for the financial industry. But last week, it all kicked off again with the exposure of a new scandal – Libor.
The London Interbank Offering Rate (Libor) is basically an interest rate that operates between banks, to govern the way they borrow and lend money to and from each other. Since banks will then base their own interest rates off this rate, and the state of it also affects share prices, etc, this Libor is effectively the central nervous system of the entire financial world, or as much of it as is operated out of London at any rate.
And it has now come out that members of a wide variety of banks have been artificially manipulating this very rate for years. Moving the rate up or down to suit themselves and work the maximum profit. Meanwhile, the other businesses and clients who tried to take out loans or operate financially were having their own interest rates and criteria dicked about with and were none the wiser. As profitable as this turned out to be for the banks, it soon became a large, ingrained part of the practice of banking, and on its revelation, Barclays last week got hit with a record fine from the Financial Services Authority of 290 million pounds.
290 million pounds. Alot of money, to be sure. Compared to the amount of money which they made from skewing the rates over the last 5 years or so? Who knows. And at the end of the day, a fine to the company is not the same as punishing a person. If Barclays as a company loses money, how does it recuperate this loss? From its customers. As all the while, the people responsible for this behaviour continue to sit around smoking their cigars of rolled-up thousand-pound bills, devoid of any personal responsibility, trying to think up the next scheme. After all, win and you get rich beyond your wildest dreams. Lose, and the taxpayers take the fall. What a life!
But at least that fine is letting some of the money go back to those taxpayers who have been ripped off, right? Well, no. The fine gets paid to the FSA, which is normally funded by regular levies from the banks themselves. This fine will get paid into the coffers of the FSA, offsetting future levies, ending in a reduction in the amount the banks will have to pay in the future. That’s right – when some of the endless corruption going on behind the scenes is finally proven, the fine finally imposed for this criminal action goes right back to the banks.
If you have picked up the pieces of your recently-blown mind and reassembled them into functioning order, you must be assuming that if the bank is ultimately given no more than a slap on the wrist, the executives must be getting some kind of sanctions as well. As far as personal responsibility goes, all signs point to there being no criminal liability brought against anyone. The government has stated that although what they did was wrong, fiddling with Libor is not a criminal offence, so nothing can be done. This is a straight-up lie, and needs to be recognised as such. There may well be no particular law in place dealing with manipulating Libor, but there are plenty of general fraud clauses which can easily be applied to this situation. The very point of having generally-stated crimes is to catch people in situations where their actions were not specifically denounced by any literal reading of an Act.
Someone needs to take personal responsibility, and the crowds are baying for blood. Many for Bob Diamond’s blood, but he has shown no inclination whatsoever to budge, even from his beautiful luxury chair fashioned from the skin of infants, let alone off to jail. Instead, Marcus Agius, the Chairman of Barclays whom nobody had heard of before this morning, has announced that he will resign at the end of his term. And well he should. But the man is 65 years old, and due for retirement anyway. And now that he is leaving, he is even eligible for a year’s severance pay. This is no sign of remorse or compensation. Although we do not know if Bob had anything to do with his senior underling taking a marginally early retirement in order to save his own skin, you can be damn sure Bob had everything to do with it.
But wait. We’re not done yet. Further to the Libor shambles is yet another scam come to light. Small business owners wanting to take out loans have been sold ‘interest rate swaps’, which is a complex system I honestly don’t fully understand. What I have been able to gather is that banks can trade one person’s loan for something else, which will then saddle the unsuspecting scamee with crippling debt for no return, and no way out. According to the victims speaking in the papers, the banks have refused to offer them any loans unless they also agreed to an interest rate swap, in a system they did not understand, which quickly escalated to monthly repayments multiple times more than they ever should have been. The scamees have been forced to sell family heirlooms and bankrupt themselves and the fledgling business they were trying to start, so that they banker who set it up can buy himself another new boat.
During the riots last year, people were jailed for as little as stealing a T-shirt. The government promised a zero-tolerance, no-nonsense crackdown on crime. But now, the rich boys defraud the country and the world of millions of pounds, they have been running crooked scheme after crooked scheme, while all the while telling us to shut up and appreciate what they do. Is there anyone who believes that now that some evidence of wrongdoing has finally emerged from their ranks, this is the only thing? There must be tons of as-yet unknown horrors going on behind those doors, and when they have come to light, when their evils are finally shown up, they will have to face … absolutely nothing.
So, to sum up. The banking industry, and key players such as Bob Diamond, decided to ignore all morality, gambled with peoples’ lives and their money, made themselves insanely rich out of it over a number of years, and when it all finally collapsed and millions got sent to welfare, they kept the profits, played the victims and improved their job standing. A couple of years later, during which time Bob and his ilk amassed an absolute fortune built on the compounding misery of the miserable souls scuttling about on the ground below him, he came out saying that the time for apologies by him and his kind was over, despite the fact nobody had seen them even begin. He then turned on the public, treating them as scavengers who didn’t appreciate or understand his lofty work. And in the meantime, his cronies been manipulating the rate which ultimately underlies almost every financial transaction in the country and abroad. Millions more commoners got sent to the meatworks, as he continued to build his own personal fortune, sneering at suggestions he forgo his King’s ransom of a bonus. His defence to the Libor scheme was, unbelievably, that it was only being done to ‘protect the company’. Then, it comes out that his gang are bullying ordinary people into taking out loans they neither want nor need in order to fund their own gambling addictions, where they get all the benefits with none of the losses. And when people finally start desperately screaming at him to take some responsibility, he laughs and gets his second-in-command to take the fall for him (for a hefty handout, surely).
There’s a lot of information there, so I put together a handy infographic to summarise all the main points:
I put a fair bit of effort into making sure everything was just right there, so that needs a copyright.
I, for one, have had enough. This last series of scandals should be the last straw for society. We should not have to put up with this any more. The people in this industry, and Bob is definitely not the only one, continue to rape us, then say they are the only ones who can help fix the damage they have done. They promise to never be naughty again, and sometimes even say they’re sorry. But they don’t mean it. They are criminals. They are greed. They are 100% unadulterated pure self-serving ego. They look at us little people and they laugh at our puny attempts at outrage and pathetic hopes for a brighter future. They are what’s wrong with the world. As Greg Smith said when he quit Goldman Sachs at the start of this year, the whole industry has turned ‘toxic’, and is ‘morally bankrupt’.
Do something about it. Don’t sit around complaining into your bowl of 2-minute noodles which you’re eating for dinner for the 5th time this week as you listen to the neighbours rob the other neighbours. Get vocal. Withdraw your money. Find locally-owned, more conscientious banking systems and give them your custom. The more people who use them, the better deals they can offer. Lobby politicians. Buy a minority of shares for a few hundred dollars to become an official shareholder, and use that position to force your voice onto them. If everyone owned just a few shares and became vocal about what we wanted, the system would run so much better than it does with the current handful of old rich white men. And there must be more ideas of ways we can beat the banks. We need to share them.
The politicians are, for the most part, in the pockets of these monstrosities. State and Crown procedures have done nothing to help. Big promises were made after the Lehman Brothers crash, and none of them were kept. The same thing will happen again. And again. They will continue to destroy swathes of human lives across the globe for their own personal benefit. They own the world, but we need to take it back. We need to drag those creatures kicking and screaming out from the wardrobe and under the bed, out into the sunlight, and watch them burn.