Banksters will keep on escaping justice until the politicians act

Good Observer column by Rawnsley.

We already knew from the financial crisis that the banksters were greedy, reckless and incompetent. We already knew from their reluctance to account for themselves or change their behaviour that they were shameless. The latest mis-selling scandals confirm something else we already knew: that they fleece their customers. What has changed over the past few days is that we now have proof that they are also corrupt and fraudulent. The rigging of Libor, the key interest rate which is used to value contracts worth trillions and affects everything from home loans to credit card charges, has shocked those who thought they were beyond being shocked. Sir Mervyn King has long held a scathing view of modern banking culture, but even the governor of the Bank of England seemed staggered that they had fallen so low. Barclays and the other institutions involved in this particular fraud were not just practising casino capitalism. They were rigging the wheel, loading the dice and marking the cards. The “few bad apples” defence will not wash. Some 20 further banks, including several other big household names, are also under investigation for perpetrating this scam. This could only happen in a City in which cheating and deception have become institutionalised.

A scandal of this magnitude demands a matching political response. That it has yet to receive.

Yep. And I see little evidence that it will.

Rawnsley also puts his finger on one of the most maddening aspects of all this — the fact that there really is one law for the rich and one for the rest of us:

One of the most shocking dimensions of this latest scandal is that no one may face prosecution. After last summer’s urban disorders, the police were imaginative in the use of the law to apprehend those involved. The courts handed down sentences to looters which were designed to be exemplary. A college student, with no previous convictions, was imprisoned for six months for nicking a £3.50 pack of bottled water. Yet there is serious doubt whether it will be possible to prosecute banksters who perpetrated a massive con involving sums which would buy many millions of bottles of water.