The big banks — UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays, HSBC, and others — are nearing a deal with the EU over their rigging of foreign-exchange markets.
They have already paid American, British and Swiss authorities more than $10 billion for the rigging, and the EU over $2 billion for rigging interest rates.
The 2008 crash has been followed by a cascade of investigations and scandals, triggered by resentment built up against the banks by government authorities and non-bank capitalists.
The twist, however, is that even when the high powers of bourgeois society are enraged at the banks, the law for those rich is different from the law for the poor.
A cleaner or shop worker caught pilfering would face much worse. The big banks just admit guilt, pay over some billions, and carry on.
The total in penalties since 2008 is reckoned at $320 billion, but the system is run so that the banks can afford it.
One prominent banker has been convicted and may face jail if his lawyers can’t work the appeals process well enough — Mark Johnson, former head of global cash foreign exchange trading at HSBC, convicted in a US court on 23 October.
But most of the big bank bosses carry on, despite what they effectively admit was endemic chiselling and cheating.
The banks should not be run for private profit. They should be taken into public ownership and run under democratic control as part of a public banking, insurance, and pensions service.