A "broken system", run by thieves, which needs replacing

6 Sept 2011

Three years after the crash of the banking system, some big British banks and their directors may be prosecuted (at last!) for their reckless profiteering in the run-up to the crisis. Not in Britain, though, but in the US!

Obama, who faces re-election in 2012 and must be seen to be doing something other than just handing over public funds to the banks, boasts of his plans to bring some bankers to book. Of course, whether this will result in more than just symbolic penalties, remains to be seen.

But, here, there is not even any question of this. British politicians are merely pussy-footing around the kind of banking "reform" which would be "least disruptive" for the bankers. They make the odd complaint about bankers' insistence on awarding themselves indecent bonuses - without doing anything to stop them, even in the state-controlled banks. But they certainly have no plans to lift the veil of "commercial confidentiality" which covers the dirty dealings of British banking.

Caught with their hands in the till

Regardless of its final outcome, the US investigation has, at least, shed some light on the methods used by "respectable" British banks, to produce their profit mountains.

Thanks largely to "whistleblowers", it is now established that during the so-called "boom" years before the crisis, Britain's 3 largest banks - HSBC, RBS and Barclays - knowingly re-packaged dodgy American mortgages in order to conceal what they were really worth and resell them as if they were top-notch investment.

Many of these mortgages were known to be unrecoverable, because they had been mis-sold to low-income households, which didn't have a chance in hell of meeting their repayments. Others still, were just plain bogus: there were no property sales behind them at all! Investigators discovered, for instance, that a housing estate where properties associated with mortgages re-packaged by Barclays were supposed to be located, was actually an Indiana cornfield!

Dodgy or not, the point for the 3 banks was that there was very big money at stake. Between them, they flogged £25bn worth of such mortgages in the US alone. Over the years, they made billions in profits out of this fraudulent business, which inflated the bonuses of their directors and the dividends of their shareholders.

Eventually, however, even the most gullible speculators lost faith in the bankers' promise of ever rising returns and the whole fraudulent bubble imploded. Then came the credit crunch, with governments handing out hundreds of billions of public funds to mop up the mess, in order to bail out the profit system and its banks.

The criminals are the profiteers

Since then, the banking fraudsters have not given up their parasitical activity. They simply shifted to other, more profitable, areas.

The few giant banks which rule over the financial sphere went on speculating. They pushed up the prices of commodities, including oil and food, to crazy heights, at everyone's expense. They gambled on government debt, threatening several countries with bankruptcy. Over the summer, they played havoc with share prices, risking yet another crash, this time on stock markets.

This is how the directors of the big British banks have managed to double their basic pay to £400,000 since the start of the crisis (in addition to paying themselves huge bonuses and pensions), with the complicity of all the main parties' politicians, instead of being brought to book as they should have been, for their criminal activities!

Compare this leniency with the vengeful treatment meted out to the 1,500 or so convicted so far for this summer's 4 days of rioting. For taking £3.50 worth of bottled water, being offered a looted pair of shorts, or finding a bag of stolen clothes, so-called "criminals" have been given six, five and four-month jail sentences, respectively.

But for looting billions from public funds, causing hundreds of thousands of jobs to be cut and misery for as many households, the big British banks, their directors and shareholders are not even subject to serious public investigation, let alone criminal prosecution!

Cameron's "broken Britain" campaign, which is supposedly designed to eradicate the "criminality" revealed the riots by turning the screw on the poorest, actually reveals the arrogant contempt of the wealthy, when confronted by the damage caused by social deprivation. It is this whole profit system, run by high-flying thieves and their political accomplices, which is broken - and it needs urgent replacement.