Monday, August 26, 2013

The lonely status of Morgan Stanley

From today's online Fortune we read that five years after the Lehman bankruptcy, Morgan Stanley is the lone big bank that has not paid a federal fine relaying to the crisis. What is more, neither the firm nor any of its bankers currently face any federal accusations!

The article makes it clear that a federal action could still occur, but notes -- in a stand-alone sentence that seems to frown with disappointment -- it is possible the firm "didn't do anything wrong in the run up to the financial crisis." This statement is immediately followed by a brief overview of private lawsuits from investors who would "seem to disagree."

At the SEC website there is a list of big banks that have paid fines for "activities" relating to the financial crisis. Morgan Stanley's name is conspicuously absent from this list, and while that should be noted and applauded while it stands, one has to wonder about the lack of vigor shown by Washington and the SEC to take action on this issue. To date, the SEC has charged 161 firms or individuals, and garnered $2.7 billion in fines. Isolated from the overall context of the issue, this may seem impressive. However, consider this: the Dallas Fed estimates that the total cost of the financial crisis to range from $6 trillion to $14 trillion. The hoary details can be accessed from a pdf download of the full report available here. In light of the sheer scale of the crisis, $2.7 billion sounds...well, meager.

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