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While we hope you are enjoying the festivities today, we also know that real-life horror stories continue to haunt millions of hardworking Americans. While much of the finance industry properly serves the needs of America, there is still just an unbelievable amount of predatory misconduct and lawbreaking as detailed in our recent Wall Street Rap Sheet report. Just since May 2022, Wall Street has paid $9 billion in fines in more than 60 cases. That’s on top of the $198 billion in fines/settlements in 430 cases over the last 23 years. Grand total: the six Wall Street megabanks have paid more than $207 billion in fines and settlements in 490 legal actions!
There are real people being grievously hurt behind these big numbers. Wells Fargo for example, was fined $3.7 billion to resolve allegations that the company wrongfully foreclosed on homes and illegally repossessed vehicles, incorrectly assessed fees and interest, repeatedly misapplied loan payments, and charged surprise overdraft fees. This impacted a stunning 16 million customers.
These numbers show—again—that fines, no matter how big and frequent, just aren’t effective in getting banks to follow the law and that lawbreaking has become “business as usual.” They routinely break the law, get sweetheart settlements, pay fines that are less than the cost-of-doing-business, and move on to commit even more violations of law. Adding insult to injury, the responsible individuals at the banks almost always walk away unpunished, their pockets stuffed with bonus money.
Another stark example of financial industry lawbreaking is crypto, with former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s ongoing criminal trial highlighting so much of the industry’s predatory and criminal behavior. Given our aggressive fight against FTX and SBF in 2022 long before the collapse, we’re obviously closely following the trial and SBF’s testimony. Check out our prior work here and the new Bloomberg documentary on FTX’s rise and fall.
At least in the FTX case, the executives are being personally prosecuted. That simply should not be a rare event. The only way to stop the Wall Street crime spree and the repeat offenders throughout finance is to go after individual executives, supervisors and board members at financial institutions, both civilly and criminally. Until the senior financiers are held personally and meaningfully accountable, lawbreaking will not be punished or deterred. That’s the only way to end the ongoing nightmare and start putting the concerns of Main Street before Wall Street.
Co-Founder, President & CEO, Better Markets