Which TBTF bank is the baddest of them all? Which one leads the league in charging illegal fees, bid rigging, money laundering, mortgage fraud or securities fraud? Which one paid the most in settlements, fines, penalties and restitution, always with no admission of wrongdoing?
It's difficult to know which one is the worst of the worst, because it seems no one is keeping score. It's reasonably certain no one in a position of authority keeps a comprehensive database of illegal bank activity across all agencies, courts and jurisdictions. If I am mistaken about this I will welcome a link in the comments.
But even if the government is not interested in keeping track of the misdeeds of the pirates who sail the seas of finance with impunity, one would think that somewhere there must an aggrieved and obsessive blogger meticulously maintaining a list of the fines, settled class-action suits, consent orders etc. for at least one of the TBTF malefactors. But it's not so, or if it is I can't seem to find their blog.
Probably the reason there is no league table of TBTF banks' malfeasance is that it's quite hard to put together. Join me below the orange outline of the amorous arthropods to find out why this is so.
Every day the websites and newspapers that cover finance report on a new insider trading scandal or interest rate manipulation investigation, or a new class action suit, or a new enforcement action, against one or more of the TBTF banks. And that's the problem. There's too much data coming from too many disparate sources and no one is looking at the big picture.
Last year the Financial Stability Board designated 29 institutions as too big to fail. Of these, 17 are based in Europe, eight in the U.S., and four in Asia. Most of them have operations in dozens of countries. That's a lot of banks doing business in a lot of jurisdictions.
There are at least ten different federal agencies which have oversight responsibility for some aspect of the business of the TBTF banks:
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
Federal Reserve System ("Fed")
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MCRB)
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)
That's a lot of agencies. Some of them have searchable websites where one can glean some information on enforcement actions. But for the most part the websites are not user friendly, don't seem to be comprehensive, and may not be up-to-date. The federal enforcers also publish press releases when they administer the obligatory slaps on the wrist, and the financial press gives the play by play, but, as far as I can tell, the fourth estate doesn't compile the daily damage reports in any sort of league table.
In addition to the federal regulatory regime, the prosecutors of the Justice Department (DOJ) and the attorneys general of the fifty states can also bring charges against the banks for a variety of offenses.
In addition, private litigants in federal court can bring cases, sometimes certified as class actions, against the banks.
In addition, foreign regulators can impose penalties and foreign courts can hear cases brought by private litigants.
So the problem is that there are too many regulatory agencies, in too many places, and too many court cases, and no central depository of data.
It's true that the TBTF culprits themselves are required to disclose certain financial information, such as provisions for reserves for paying fines and restitution, but these disclosures aren't very specific and don't add much to our information about the overall picture. They don't really help us determine which bank is the number one bankster.
I have my favorite for the bankster championship, and I invite you to register your opinion (limited to U.S. financial villains) in the poll below or in a comment. But what is needed is for some stalwart member of the DK community to organize the crowd-sourcing, in a standard format, of information on TBTF settlements from the financial press, the regulatory agencies, the courts and other sources so we can all read the leader board.