This Real News Network interview with Bill Black provides a good high-level overview of what is right and (mainly) wrong with the $8.9 billion settlement with BNP Paribas over money-laundering charges. Black stresses that financial crime remains a very attractive activity for both the enterprise and its employees. As usual, no executives were charged or even fined, although thanks to the intervention of New York financial services superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, eleven employees of the French bank lost their jobs.
Black also points out that even though the level of the fine sounds impressive, by definition, it could never be large enough to threaten the health of a too-big-to-fail bank. Even though it does represent a step in the right direction, it is still insufficient in magnitude. Black also points out how inconsistent the fines have been.
Black did omit a couple of points that we regard as important. First, the US has decided to impose a big fine with respect to money-laundering that defied US sanctions. In other words, this action was intended to send a signal about the ability and willingness of the US to inflict pain upon organizations that defied US military/security priorities. Second, the target was a foreign bank. And finally, these crowd-pleasing fines are being imposed in the runup to Congressional midterms when the Democrats are in trouble. So expect the tough-looking posture towards financial crime to be a thing of the past come mid November.