The banking system was saved from collapse by billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, which in turn led to anger that the public was having to bail out bankers, who were perceived as risk-taking and “greedy”.
We were told back then that they were to big to fail.
To day there are far bigger. Today, the top banks are larger than they were before the crisis and are engaged in many of the same behaviors that led to the financial meltdown, including using large amounts of short-term borrowing to fund purchases of speculative securities.
One would expect a stark public assessment of what went wrong with the post-crisis reform of our financial system but the largest banks have used their political muscle to shield their enterprises and individual bankers from criminal prosecution and to resist the toughest reforms.
While global banks have reportedly paid $100 billion in legal settlements with the U.S. the data is indisputable: The top six bank holding companies in the US—JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley—are larger than they were before the 2008 crisis.
Together they hold 37 percent more assets than they did five years ago.
These six bank holding companies have two-thirds of the total assets in the entire banking system, which includes nearly 7,000 banks.
While most of us worry about making ends meet they enjoy the comfort of an expanded government safety net. These giant firms and their executives can continue to create and benefit from boom-and-bust cycles, privatizing profits in the bountiful years and socializing their losses when they fall.
The question now is:
How big do the biggest banks have to get before we consider breaking them up? . . . Do they have to double in size? Triple in size? Quadruple in size?”
The banking industry is more than likely to undergo significant changes over the next few decades.
The majority of transactions are now processed electronically, reducing the need for physical branches. No more paper money by 2043? From 3-D banking to digital currency, within 10 years.
The economic payments system will begin to ‘know us,’ either through bio metrics, optical sensor or facial recognition. That’s already happening to some extent with smartphones – the new iPhone 5S, for example, uses fingerprint scanning to unlock the phone.
So why not break them up. The big ones are always going to be the most dangerous.
They have recently exhibited “breathtaking flagrancy” setting up a group they called “the cartel” to manipulate a market valued at $5trn a day.(Each day, £3.5tn changes hands in the foreign exchange markets. Each week, the equivalent of a year’s global trade in physical goods takes place.)
Resulting in new fines for fixing the forex markets. Six major banks were fined £2.6bn in November 2014. This takes the total penalties to date to£6.3bn.
Considering the gigantic profits (more than double their average over the seventy years ending in 1999) they have all taken these fines as a drop in the ocean with little or no effect on how they operate. Instead, the banks and their shareholders have picked up the check whether it’s for the interest rate rigging scandal or fiddling the Foreign Exchange Markets. They had more than likely already made provision on their balance sheets for the lost, which by the way would reduce their profits saving corporation tax.
Rarely have we seen any of the Directors been held personally responsible.
Only prison sentences will deter future abuses.
The agenda for change within the global corporate and investment banking (CIB) industry remains significant.
So where are we?
It’s agreed that the Banking Industry needs profound structural changes.
The Global debt is now in the region of a staggering $ 200 trillion almost three times the size of the global economy. It is long past the time for policymakers to right the global economy, is impossible. We that is the World have amassed mountains of new unplayable debts expanding 25% in the last six years. Post recession growth has never been so anaemic in recent history despite the unprecedented wave of money printing intended to boost the economy.
The world of economics is ill-equipped to deal with the next crisis.
We now have an equity bubble which will bust as demand for increased wages cuts into corporate profits.
Pension Funds and insurers will not have the cash to meet future obligations causing them to liquidate assets.
China could devalue the Yuan, making it impossible to export and there are no policy tools left to deal with such event, dragging the world into another recession.
If interest rates rise the cost of serving debts will be beyond the world economy.
Gold will be back in fashion.
Where do the Big banks come into all of this.
” If you ain’t cheating,” said one of the traders involved in the recent currency exchange scandal, ” you ain’t trying.”
What I say is “If we’re not addressing the financial sector’s systemic threat to the world economy, or its affronts to our system of justice, then we ain’t trying either”.
Our banks have a rotten core.
In what other sector would we tolerate the frequency and severity of such damaging behavior? All are repeat offenders with long records of serial fraud. The banking industry’s incentive system, combined with our governments refusal to prosecute has taught them that the old saying is wrong: crime does pay. They are immune from real punishment.
Royal Bank of Scotland RBS which is 79% owned by taxpayers, was fined £430m – on top of the £400m of penalties announced in November has dismissed three employees, and suspended two more, following its role in the manipulation of the foreign exchange markets.
Barclay’s. fined £1.5bn by five regulators, including a record £284m by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority fire eight people, as part of a deal with regulators. Yet Barclays’ stock market value rose by £1.5bn as a result of a 3% rise in its share price amid relief the fine was not even larger.
Barclay’s also became the first bank to be fined for fixing another benchmark, known as the ISDA fix. It is paying £74m to the US regulator the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Barclay’s paid a “lone wolf” star trader £170m in the five years following the financial crisis, a payout which dwarfed those of Bob Diamond, the bank’s former boss he was at the center of a row over his £2.7m bonus for 2012 in the months before he quit.
Citigroup was fined £770m,
PJ Morgan the biggest bank in the US – which has paid fines totalling more than £26bn since 2009 – was fined another £572m.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch fined $205m.
However there is hope.
Crowdfunding/ Kickstarter, created in 2009 has funded a wide range of projects(over 60 000 in July 2012).
Kickstarter is financed by taking 5% of the funds raised; Amazon captures an additional share of between 3 and 5% of the amount.
A recent report from the Financial Stability Board put assets for non bank lending institutions at $75 trillion after growing more than 7 percent in 2013.
Lending Club staged a highly successful initial public offering earlier in December, raising $870 million in its debut, and others are expected to follow in 2016.
Despite pronouncements and promises of sweeping reform, many of the conditions that caused the financial crisis of 2008 persist six years after the multi-trillion-dollar bank bailouts began.
There time is almost up.
But we should also not be naïve:
You can rest assured that before the clock chimes they will have reinvented themselves. ( See What will Money look like in the Future. 6/12/2014)
It is therefore time to make clear to the Industry how the future regulatory landscape will look before Google/ Apple/Amazon are all Bankers.
Perhaps returning to where Insurance companies were Insurance companies, where Supermarkets were Supermarkets not selling insurance and Banking Facilities, and stop cross contamination of different Service Industries.