As an American, do you ever sit back and say: Oh look, rich people are at it again? So far, it has been that kind of year in news.
This week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced that it had evidence that on at least eight occasions, JPMorgan Chase was found manipulating the energy market in California and the mid-west to siphon an additional $125 million from consumers. JPMorgan Chase has already settled with FERC, to the tune of a $410 million dollar fine.
While $410 million may sound fair, to one of the nation's largest banks it represents just a day's worth of income — a penalty some have deemed too lenient. The bank has, as of yet, not taken action regarding the four employees that FERC singled out as leading the scheme, nor have those employees been held liable by other state agencies. Though there is room for individual penalties in the courts, it seems unlikely that direct action against those employees will be taken.
This news comes on the heels of a New York Times report which found, almost unsurprisingly, that Goldman Sachs has conned the economy out of at least $5 billion dollars by artificially inflating the price of aluminum. According to the report, Goldman restricted the supply of aluminum by shuffling it between warehouses, causing prices to rise by only a tenth of a cent, but multiplied across all industries dependent on aluminum, the overall effect was quite substantial.
Banks lining their pockets with ill-gotten gains has been a common theme this year. In June, Rolling Stone found evidence that credit rating agencies were given financial bonuses for approving the risky loans behind the sub-prime mortgage market collapse. Incriminating emails abound in the report, with lines such as:
"Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card[s] falters."
"Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at."
This news coincided with interviews by Salon of Bank of America whistleblowers, who confessed they were given clear directives to maximize the bank's fees at the expense of consumers by using delaying and rejection tactics.
Altogether, these stories serve only to vindicate the Democratic position that America is in need of stronger, more thorough banking regulations. Republicans however, especially those of the libertarian strain, have been wont to call for additional regulation, citing concerns about protecting 'job creators' and keeping the regulatory burden low, nigh inadequate.