Barclays cheats, and shareholders pay
Unless the wrongdoers are forced to pay personally, nothing will change.
Lawlessness. Utter lawlessness. That's what I came away thinking about after Barclays (BCS) admitted that its traders tried to manipulate interest rates to make themselves look better and seem more solvent.
This rate they manipulated, the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, is immensely important, controlling trillions of dollars in contracts, everything from what corporations borrow at to what you and I might have gotten our mortgage priced off of. It was sacrosanct, or so I thought, and along come these trading pirates taking it where they can, perhaps in a total conspiracy with other bank traders, to get bigger bonuses and inflate their banks' share prices.
To which I say of course they did. Why not? If they got caught, who paid? The shareholders, that's who. "Barclays agreed to pay $453 million in fines," the lead story of The Wall Street Journal opens with. But it wasn't Barclays, it was the hapless owners of Barclays. "The unusually steep punishment," to quote further, reflected the serious and widespread nature of the manipulation.
Huh? What's steep about this punishment? Isn't punishment meant to punish wrongdoers? What did the shareholders do? There were people involved in the price-fixing. The fact that they aren't paying the fine says to me that this is anything but steep. It just encourages more lawlessness. We have put Mafia chieftains in prison for years for fixing the prices of the trucking of goods. We have indicted, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced organized-crime lords for cheating casinos and running numbers and sports books. We've put people behind bars for ages for fixing the price of electrical equipment and cardboard boxes!
But these guys, involved in far more nefarious rigging, easily documented from emails, get to laugh all the way to the bank, because I am not even hearing about clawbacks of bonuses that might have been enlarged by the manipulation of the most important financial contract in the world.
How about the boys at the top? Sure enough Barclays chief executive Robert Diamond and three other top executives agreed to forgo 2012 bonuses of $23.5 million. I feel their pain. But that's go-forward money. How much did they make during and after the scams? It's bad enough the stock prices have been horrendous, but they got rich at the same time, perhaps off of these actions.
Nobody ever seems to have to give up anything, and nobody ever seems to lose a job, and nobody ever seems to even get prosecuted, provided they are bankers. It's like the job gives them immunity for all but insider trading, and they would probably have immunity from that, too, if we didn't have a tough and fair U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
This immunity is just one more injustice, not unlike the immunity that all of the bankers at Lehman or Bear Stearns or AIG or Countrywide received. It's not unlike the immunity the bankers received from the robo-signings. These bankers were the proximate cause of so many of our ills, yet somehow they evaded the law.
That's because banking is a lawless profession. To me these people are embezzlers, fraudsters and perhaps even gangsters in pinstripes. Their immunity makes a mockery of justice, and it explains why so many simply calculate that it's worth it, because even if they get caught, all that happens is shareholders pay. What a sweet deal they have on the rest of us.
Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and which has no positions in stocks mentions.
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workers screw up they get fired from their low paying job.........ceo's run companies in the ground and
get bonuses on top of their multi million dollar salary..........ahhhh capitalism
Another black mark for wall street! when will it end? Are all you people happy with the greedy punks who are stealing and manipulating the market for their personal gains? they seem to get large $$$ bonuses, even when the stocks fall???I agree totally with Cramer on the need for punishment of the wrong-doers.
Please don't anyone again suggest that social security fund be invested in this sick boys club, it is not safe from the greedy ones and the controls are still severly lacking. If it does get suggested, be very wary of 'why' it was suggested.
Finally we're hearing what many have been saying since 2008. Where are our representatives, especially Congress when they supposedly want to correct all of Obama's wrongs and apparently nobody elses?
Congress should be shouting this day in and day out instead of the garbage they are spending their time on.
What? There is market manipulation by the banks? Well I am shocked.
yes mike, this was indeed a scathing, accurate attack on our system that hurts shareholders and does not hold the perps responsible BUT shouldn't the board of directors be targeted and forced to take action on behalf of the shareholders with employee terminations and bonus clawbacks?
as for cramer - it is difficult to align with him on this as he has publicy admitted to gray-area market manipulation while he was a hedgie.
anyway - some directors and employees should be losing their jobs over this, but probaly will not as they are typically in cahoots with the board. it's a vicious cycle.
Thi**** the nail on the head of whats wrong with todays people in positions of leadership. We have no leadership with deserved respect. Wild wild west cowboy style is the rule of the day.
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