Cost Of Doing Business: Big Banks Have Paid $195 Billion In Fines Since 2000

Cost Of Doing Business: Big Banks Have Paid $195 Billion In Fines Since 2000

Often times when the “too big to fail” banks are caught with their hands in the cookie jar (or placing the entire global economy on the precipice of collapse, as was the case in 2008), nobody goes to jail and the banks wind up paying a hefty fine and putting the “youthful indiscretions” behind them. This inevitably leads to jokes about how paying fines is part of the cost of doing business for big banks.

But it isn’t until you aggregate the sums paid over the last 2 decades, which FT did in a report published this weekend, that one can really see just how much these fines actually are becoming a cost of doing business for banks. Over the last 20 years, the six largest U.S. banks have paid out nearly $200 billion in fines and penalties. 

Advocacy group Better Markets found that Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have paid $195 billion, collectively, since 2000. The group claims the numbers show banks behavior deteriorating, as they have endured more fines since the global financial crisis than prior to it. 

There were 85 major legal complaints against banks between 2000 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, that number was 110 cases, most of which were mortgage related. But since 2012, the group found that there has been another 204 legal actions.

Better Markets chief executive Dennis Kelleher said: “They’re all major legal actions . . . It’s not like it was a ‘broken windows’ theory post-crash where prosecutors are fining every little violation. If they were held to higher standards they all would have been put out of business because the recidivism is really quite shocking.”

He continued: “It’s absolutely shocking that JPMorgan has now pleaded guilty to three separate criminal charges for egregious years-long criminal conduct.”

Banks like JP Morgan are repeating past mistakes, too. In October, the bank paid $920 million for manipulation of the metals market – this comes after the bank admitted AML failings in 2014 and pleaded guilty in 2015 to manipulating FX markets. 

JP Morgan was second only to Bank of America in fines and penalties. Bank of America has paid $91 billion for 86 legal cases since 2000, while JP Morgan has paid slightly over $40 billion as a result of 83 cases. B of A says most of those fines were “mortgage-related issues that predated Bank of America’s acquisitions of companies more than 10 years ago”.

Goldman Sachs has also entered into massive multi-billion dollar settlements, most notably for looting Malaysia’s 1MDB development fund.

When you compare the fines to the combined $1.3 trillion in net income the banks have earned over the same 20 years, it becomes clear: the “cost of doing business” in the investment banking world is well worth it. 

Tyler Durden
Wed, 12/30/2020 – 13:15

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