It was about two years ago when we summarized all the known and confirmed rigged markets.
- Libor - interest rates (link)
- ISDAfix - swaps (link)
- Platts - oil prices (link)
- WM/Reuters - FX (link)
- High-Frequency Trading - equities (link)
Since then things have gone from bad to worse for believers in fair and efficient markets, with not only countless more banks now admitting they rigged Libor and FX, not to mention gold (yes gold too was manipulated as impossible as it sounds) and even the CFTC finally figured out just how spoofers manipulate the price of both stock indices and gold, but that biggest master manipulator of all, the world's central banks, unleashed a record liquidity blitz into world markets with 2015 set to be the year in which CBs are set to monetize all net issuance.
It all culminated with yesterday's settlement in which five of the world's biggest banks, including JPM, Citi and Barclays, agreed to plead guilty in a currency-rigging probe.
And, to Bloomberg's dismay, the public yawned.
Bloomberg's amazement continues:
Barely more than a year ago, criminal charges against major U.S. banks were considered unthinkable, with lawyers and analysts viewing felony convictions as a death sentence and a threat to the financial system. Now, by granting waivers allowing lenders to keep operating even after a felony plea, the government has managed to punish firms while protecting them from fatal consequences.
Others, including those who work in the industry, are just as amazed:
“This is the first time you had Citigroup, JPMorgan or any U.S. bank plead guilty essentially to criminal conduct -- this is a bad day for American finance,” Mike Mayo, an analyst at CLSA Ltd., said in a televised interview with Bloomberg. “Having said that, this is more backward-looking than forward-looking.”
The market, however, was delighted with the stocks of Barclays, UBS and RBS rising.
“It’s a bit weird, isn’t it?” Christopher Wheeler, a London-based analyst at Atlantic Equities LLP, said in a telephone interview. “$5.8 billion and yet everybody is shrugging their shoulders.”
And while it is now official that stocks are rewarded for crimes, why is it that even the public no longer cares?
For all the muted response to Wednesday’s news, Donaldson Capital Management LLC’s Greg Donaldson expressed concern that criminal charges may now become routine. “Once you cross that line and admit you’ve done something bad, you open up Pandora’s box,” said Donaldson, chairman of the Evansville, Indiana-based firm that manages about $1.1 billion. “This settlement just moved the goal post.”
If convictions become too commonplace, the government may have to pursue even tougher penalties.
Which is the punchline: the government will not pursue anything that truly hurts banks. Ever again.
Because in an age of deferred prosecutions and "probations" for criminal conduct even for recidivist banks such as UBS, what the public has realized is that in his desperate scramble to appear tough on banks and to prosecute them "criminally", the president has come to a back room arrangement with the banks in which they agree to pay slightly greater fines under an umbrella of criminal conduct, which thanks to SEC waivers to conduct "business as usual", achieves absolutely nothing.
Oops, did we say the banks pay fines? We meant their shareholders.
As for how serious the "criminal" charges are, we are delighted to summarize just how many bankers are being arrested, handcuffed and carted to prison.
And with that we hope to have explained why not even the public is dumb enough any more to fall for the whole "criminal punishment for the banks" bullshit.
Because by now everyone knows who really calls the shots in the US government.