Specifically; senior bankers involved with money laundering and tax evasion. In the wake of HSBC’s $1.9bn fine over money laundering, one has to wonder to what extent a banker has to break the law for them to actually spend time behind bars.
It’s not a new observation that we seem to have one rule for some, one rule for another. A person gets done for welfare fraud, taking forty grand… they go to prison, the tabloids have their news story, everyone’s happy… A company evades paying millions in tax though and… we ‘negotiate their tax bill’ with them… yeah, that’s gonna make other companies think twice isn’t it?
No, it’s not a new observation, but I just want to draw some parallels between the industries where these practices are happening. Tax evasion, money laundering, they both have overtones of the hacking scandal to them. Large organisations, breaking the law at will, an air of being above the law to them… I don’t like it when people use the term ‘culture’ to describe it when a group of people get into this kind of mindset, but it does seem from the outside that a culture of entitlement is not something the welfare state is imbuing on its recipients. Rather, it appears to be something worming into large organisations, where money and power are such that a feeling of being above others, or being able to do anything, in the pursuit of their end goal (a news story, making money etc…) exists in the form of an entitlement unmatched in any other walk of life.
That is the entitlement culture we have to target, because it affects us all negatively. Be it libor, phone hacking, money laundering, tax evasion or the financial crisis – more often than not it is the majority of people who have played no part in the affair that get landed with the bill when things go wrong, whereas the big players get off free, or near as darn it.
With the phone hacking scandal we finally drew blood though, and that didn’t come until prison became a grave possibility. When individuals can hide behind their organisation and let it take the hit – be it from a fine, or the closure of a newspaper – their activities will continue unhindered. Not until you root out those individuals and punish them directly, weed them out of the system and allow a new culture to take shape in their wake will we have a banking industry where anything in pursuit of profit – including breaking the law – is not seen as acceptable. In a world where banks (and newspapers) have so much power, often unchecked, it is vital that we do everything at our disposal to make the banks and newspapers work in our interest.
So, in conclusion; equality for criminals… prison for bankers.