A couple of new stories about the financial sector caught our attention this week. The first was the LIBOR scandal – Barclays and other banks deliberately fixing the inter-bank lending rate for profit. Then there was the scandal that banks were forcing them to take out Interest rate protection insurance with crippingly high repayments. Proving yet again, that banking is the business of cowboys.
As is understandable, the public reaction has been one of outrage. While millions of people are struggling with the austerity measures and recession, here are the people who caused the crash cheating their way to wealth and celebrating with bottles of Champagne. Ed Miliband has called for a public inquiry into the corrupt practices of the banks, Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian called for the bankers involved to be punished just like last summer’s rioters (the difference between rioters and bankers is the latter have stolen a lot more). Meanwhile, the chief of Barclays, Bob Diamond, called it “inappropriate behaviour” carried out by “a small number of people”, as he tried to deflect the blame from himself and his company.
What is obvious to most people – even, I suspect the Time and Telegraph readers – is that the banking sector have basically been allowed to do what they want for far too long. Not enough regulation has meant they have been free to bully small businesses and individuals, and not enough control has allowed them to get away with activities that are blatantly criminal. A footballer found guilty of match fixing would be banned from the game and jailed. A public sector worker caught stealing from work would be sacked and prosecuted. Why not punish the bankers responsible as well?