It’s Ok To Manipulate Markets

This sort of scam ought to lead to prison time.  Instead, as has been the pattern, we find ourselves with tiny little wrist-slap fines and nothing more — and the crooks get to keep the profits besides.

Barclays Plc (BARC), Britain’s second-biggest bank by assets, agreed to pay 290 million pounds ($452.3 million) in penalties to settle U.S. and U.K. probes into whether it sought to rig the London and euro interbank offered rates.

Barclays Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond and other executives will forgo their bonuses as a result, the bank said in a statement.

“The events which gave rise to today’s resolutions relate to past actions which fell well short of the standards to which Barclays aspires in the conduct of its business,” Diamond said in the statement.

So it’s perfectly ok to rig one of the biggest markets in the world — on which hundreds of trillions of dollars of derivative contracts rest and where extremely tiny moves turn into monstrous profits (or losses) — and just pay a tiny fine?

I thought corruption was actually illegal?

Employees responsible for Libor submissions have said in interviews with Bloomberg they regularly discussed where to set the measure with traders sitting near them, interdealer brokers and counterparts at rival banks. The talks became common practice after money markets froze in 2007, they said, making it difficult for individual bankers to gauge the cost of borrowing from other lenders.

The obvious answer to the question is that you can rig all the markets you want and steal all the money you wantso long as you’re a big bankster, and if you get caught — just pay a tiny fine.

The obvious incentive to do this more often and with ever-larger amounts of money (which has to come from someone — in this case it comes from the bank’s customers and others in the market — that ultimately means you and I!) should be clear to everyone.

Of course if you steal $50 from the corner Stop-N-Rob, now that deserves prison time.

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