There’s been a lot of bleating and belly-aching—notably from the Bernie bros—about why more bankers aren’t enjoying the hospitality of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for all of the obviously intentional and nefarious things they did to bring down our financial system and screw over the little guy. As befits many of the corners from which this is heard, there is more than a whiff of conspiracy about the whole thing: Just another sign of the corrupt bargains made among the powerful and the full merger between Wall Street and the government embodied in the physical manifestation of Hillary Rodham Clinton. And, sure, that could all be true. There is, however, an alternative explanation, and that is: Regulators and prosecutors really suck at their jobs.
The Wall Street Journal examined 156 criminal and civil cases brought by the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission against 10 of the largest Wall Street banks since 2009. In 81% of those cases, individual employees were neither identified nor charged. A total of 47 bank employees were charged in relation to the cases. One was a boardroom-level executive, the Journal’s analysis found….
Most of the bankers who were charged pleaded guilty to criminal counts or agreed to settle a civil case, with those facing civil charges paying a median penalty of $61,000. Of the 11 people who went to trial or a hearing and had a ruling on their case, six were found not liable or had the case dismissed. That left a total of five bank employees at any level against whom the government won a contested case.