It has been amusing to watch this worldwide dust-up regarding the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA. Oh! My! God! There is corruption in world football! Something must be done to stop this because, God knows, society might fall apart if the people think that soccer isn’t on the up and up. But not to worry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch is on the case! People are being indicted. People are going to go to jail. She noted, “They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.” At least, justice is done! Now that the evildoers are being punished, we can all rest safe at night knowing that soccer is clean.
Of course, this spectacle of “tough on soccer crime” comes just one week after it was announced that Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase , Barclays, and Royal Bank of Scotland were caught having “rigged foreign exchange prices” over the couse of six years. Loretta Lynch had strong words for these criminals: they had been involved in a “brazen display of collusion.” She added, “Starting as early as Dec 2007, currency traders at several multinational banks formed a group dubbed ‘The Cartel.’ It is perhaps fitting that those traders chose that name, as it aptly describes the brazenly illegal behavior they were engaging in on a near-daily basis.” Very bad stuff.
So if the US and EU are going to lock up people who have manipulated something as trivial as soccer, you can only imagine what happened to these bankers. What was it? Are they set to be hanged, drawn, and quartered? Or perhaps death by sawing? Burned at the stake?! What horrible end will come to these malefactors of great wealth? Well, if you read this website regularly — or if you have simply lived in the United States sometime in the last forty years — you already know: nothing.
That’s not how it is put in the press, of course. The Justice Department made a big deal out of the fact that the banks will have to pay $5.5 billion in fines. Also, the banks involved will have to plead guilty to some criminal charges. But you know the payoff:
Don’t worry about that last part. That is always said. When banks agree to settlements, some claim is made to the effect of, “This does not rule out further prosecution.” But in fact there are never any further prosecutions because that is understood in the deal. Meanwhile, the whole thing allows the CEOs of the company to make public statements about how they are as appalled as anyone. Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said, “The behavior that resulted in the settlements we announced today is an embarrassment to our firm, and stands in stark contrast to Citi’s values.” Citi’s values? I thought the thing about corporations was that their only moral duty was to make money for their stock holders. We’re now supposed to believe that (1) they care about anything but that; and (2) Corbat and the rest of the clan don’t actually know all the nefarious things that their companies do in order to “maximize shareholder value”?
But what is accountability in the financial sector compared to making sure that Brazil doesn’t unfairly get to host the World Cup? This is the kind of disconnect that is common in the law enforcement community. The cronies at the top of FIFA are rich. But they aren’t rich like Michael Corbat or Jamie Dimon. And so it is okay to hold those “low level” criminals accountable. People who work in banks are the “right kind of people.” And as a result, they aren’t the kind of people who go to jail. It’s disgusting.