Will top bankers' behavior ever land them in jail ? Or are bad business decisions even a crime at all?
Reuters reports that five years on from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the debate over how to hold senior bank bosses to account for failures is far from over, but legal sanctions for top executives remain a largely remote threat.
Even as laws evolve - in Britain, the government wants to criminalize recklessness in banking - a repeat of the global financial crisis and near-collapses of 2008 would not necessarily result in many more prosecutions today, lawyers say.
Regulators the world over stepped up their scrutiny of banks and cracked down on financial crime in the wake of public anger over costly bailouts and subsequent scandals. But that has so far translated into relatively few attempts to bring charges against those in the highest echelons of banking.
In Germany and the Netherlands there have also been isolated high-level convictions, and some landmark cases could yet materialize. The entire former executive board of German lender HSH Nordbank is being put on trial over actions taken in the run-up to the crisis.
Despite costly state rescues in Spain for example, mainstream politicians have shied away from calling for investigations into various failures in the same way as British ones, after the UK government came under pressure from an intense public backlash in the wake of the crisis.
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image: © Lisamarie Babik