Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Why bankers won't go to jail

Thomas Power wrote a super blog recently asking us all when would the bankers go to jail? In the same vain we can ask, will Occupy Wall Street and the protest outside St Paul's that has cost a few heads in the Church come to anything more than provide some soundbites for Ed Milliband?

The answer to many gnarled and downbeaten old lags like me is that they probably won't. After all, we love the lifestyle and apparent boom we have lived in. No one wants to give back their sofas or 50" plasma TVs and all the rest of the materials we have acquired over the last 15 years thanks to the largesse of bankers who have extended us cheap, easy to get credit.

I am cynical in my old age. I ask simpler questions than the complex ones like asking if bankers have defrauded their shareholders or the taxpayers. I ask, if my pension and investments have been entrusted to these people over the years, why is it that my portfolio and future income is virtually worthless when the very people trading in my money are super, super rich? How is it that over the same period of tracking my investments that individual bankers' net wealth has risen astronomically through good and bad times while mine has gone backwards?

This is the essence of casino banking. With no care or lack of understanding why they have been entrusted with people's life long earnings to give them a future after work, these people just throw it at outlandish bets for unfeasible personal riches while moving my pile not a jot.

It is about the instruments that bankers have invested in, it is about the lack of controls and ethics, it is about the over arching need for personnel gain that totally neglects the purpose of why bankers are entrusted with my and your money.

Bankers haven't committed fraud or diddled their shareholders - they are just betters the same as the shareholders are. These bankers have hoodwinked you and I. Amidst the caveat of 'what goes up, can come down' they have protected their backsides for zero comebacks. Our investments could collapse to nothing and there is little we can do except mount prolonged cases to try and get some of it back which could take years. Meanwhile the bankers move on to the next super rich job.

The benefits and rewards in banking for those who trade in our money are completely out of kilter to the performance of investments of the individuals who entrust them with the money. Ah, not unless you are also part of the innermost, secret circle where the world of finance and riches are available to you all. For this, you don't have to be rich, just a gullible politician will do. You can become rich if you can come into the game with a chip at the casino.

Bankers just exploit us at every turn. It shouldn't be about having to use the law to stop them, we should be the ones who stop them. This is our money, even our tax that keeps them afloat, this is our future, this is our expectation of return.

How can we stop Wall St and the City from just raping us at all points? The only way is to stop investing. Stick the money into banks with no investment trading arms, demand some return and then put a caveat that this money cannot be used for anything other than mortgage or asset backed lending. It's time that we demand what returns they make, what the top end salaries should be and what is a fair return on our capital.

It's daft, it's fanciful, it's wishful thinking, it's naive. It will grind the financial machine to a halt, it will stop the flow of credit and capital. It will put people out of work. There are countless arguments against such illogical and pathetic thinking of people like me.

But the alternative is we just sit here and watch a small percentage of people earn incredible wealth with no relation to the increase or decrease in the value of our investments - the very things they are meant to grow.

Bankers trade in instruments that only make them money - it's a game we are not part of but we do loan them the chips to play the game and we do guarantee their losses. Well, the only way to stop that is to simply stop giving them the money and to vote out any Government that agrees to underwrite losses.

Banks are businesses. We have a right to dictate what they earn and demand certain obligations back - we are the customers. One is a duty of care. Banks have wilfully and negligently lost fortunes for us all. That's as good as theft.

When kids rioted in the streets this year and destroyed property, they got custodial sentences and loss of liberty plus fines. It's ironic that part of the problem was caused by the economic and social conditions in which we live and bankers are a cause of that. Society is fast becoming polarised and we are in danger that capitalism is being allowed to get out of control. 

Am I agreeing with Milliband? Nope. He just mouths the words. I don't see him sitting outside St Paul's in a tent.

Then again, neither does a cynic like me. In the end, I rant and rave at the injustice of it all but then I get back to the life we have created for ourselves. 

Must nip down the bank and get some cash out. If there's any left.

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