Public frustration has been mounting over the lack of high-profile criminal prosecutions in the wake of the financial crisis here in the U.S. But the same cannot be said abroad.
Several news outlets reported that Iceland's special prosecutor, hired in 2009 to investigate suspicious activities at several major banks, indicted fifteen bankers — including two chief executives — earlier this month over illegal activity tied to the meltdown of the country's banking system in the fall of 2008. The bankers are accused of stock-price manipulation and securities fraud.
"These are quite big cases by any measurement, they're my biggest cases so far," Olafur Thor Hauksson, the prosecutor, told the Wall Street Journal last Friday, adding that the charged could face up to six years in prison if convicted.
Some blogs reacted to the news with the observation that Iceland's actions are in contrast to the lack of prosecutions in the U.S.
"Irresponsible actions at many of our biggest banks wreaked similar havoc across our own banking system and economy," wrote John Grgurich on the Motley Fool website. "So why hasn't the U.S. seen any of its bank CEOs, let alone any of its politicians, go on trial for similar charges?"
The names of the Iceland bankers were not revealed at the time, except for Sigurjon Arnason, CEO of Landsbanki, and Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, CEO of Kaupthing. Both banks failed during the crisis, amidst the country's historic economic collapse.
The bankers are charged with hatching a plan to buy bank shares in order to keep the share prices from falling, and then sell the stock, according to the Journal.
"All in all we now have 17 or 18 court cases relating to the bank collapse, and many haven't been tried yet, so it's not over yet," Hauksson told the Journal.