Barclays: why no criminal prosecutions?

After the credit crunch, it was very natural to think that surely someone somewhere ought to be punished for what happened.

But I was open to the argument that what had happened was a combination of incompetence, greed, systemic failure and macro-economic forces, rather than actual fraud — or at least that fraud was a small part of the story. And so it was not a matter for the criminal law.

And then this Barclays case comes along. And we have what, as far as I understand it, is a straightforward case of people conspiring to lie about important financial information in order to manipulate the market… and still no one is apparently facing criminal prosecution.

It’s not just that it would be satisfying to see a few City wide boys up before a judge. It’s that it makes you wonder how much other potential criminality has been left uninvestigated or unprosecuted for some reason. Because it’s easier to let sleeping dogs lie? Because fraud cases are expensive to investigate and prosecute? Because the authorities are still so worried about the fragility of the financial system that they’re scared of rocking the boat? Because of the same combination of cosiness and intimidation that stopped the police from investigating phone hacking properly?

The whole thing stinks.

Scary research

Genuinely terrifying:

Researchers [in Israel] looked at 1,112 rulings involving requests for parole (or for changes of incarceration terms) presented to eight judges. They heard cases daily, interrupting for a morning snack and lunch.

The odds of an inmate receiving a favorable decision started at 65%, first thing in the morning, then steadily dropped until the snack break. If the judge heard eight cases in the morning, the average success rate for the last one was 25%. If the judge heard 12 cases, the average success rate for the final one was 0%. Favorable rulings popped back up to 65% when the judge returned, then slid again until lunchtime. The same pattern appeared post-lunch.

The authors could find no other factors that might explain the pattern beyond the hearing’s timing, relative to the food breaks. They had no direct measure of the judges’ mood.

From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, via the WSJ, via bookofjoe.

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