Benjamin Lawsky, New York's top banking cop, called on regulators Wednesday to hold individuals responsible for the scandals that have continued to sweep the financial industry after the crisis.
The head of New York's Department of Financial Services also warned that his agency is considering taking more aggressive actions against companies that violate regulations, and may ban some banks from certain businesses.
"I don't think we have done nearly enough as regulators — DFS included — to hold individuals on Wall Street accountable for misconduct," Lawsky said, according to prepared remarks, adding that "lax enforcement by regulators has contributed to the vicious cycle of scandal after scandal after scandal that we're continuing to see in the financial sector."
No senior bank executives have gone to jail for the financial crisis — or for many of the big scandals since, a fact for which regulators and government officials have been widely criticized. Instead, banks have paid billions of dollars in fines to settle government claims, often without admitting wrongdoing and almost always without significant consequences for their top executives.
Last year, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) became the flash point of such discussions, after it paid more than $20 billion to settle government claims over everything from its mortgage securitization and sales activities to its alleged manipulation of energy markets and its trading activities. While Jamie Dimon, its chief executive, took a reputational beating, the board in January gave him a raise, awarding him $20 million in compensation for 2013.
Lawsky did not cite specific names of either people or banks in his prepared remarks, but he called for regulators to shame, prosecute and otherwise penalize bankers found to be culpable in the industry's scandals.
"We should publicly expose, in great detail, the actual, specific misconduct that individual employees engaged in" and "where appropriate, individuals should face real, serious penalties and sanctions when they break the rules," he said.
"That can mean putting people in jail when they break the law in the context of criminal prosecutions. But it can also mean suspensions, firings, bonus claw-backs, and other types of penalties in the regulatory context," he added.
Lawsky called for similar creativity when regulators take action against companies. Banks and other financial firms will continue paying fines to resolve regulatory charges, but "we should also … think more creatively about corporate penalties in a way that will help move the needle when it comes to deterrence," he said.
He referred to his department's action against Deloitte, which banned the firm's financial-consulting business from working for New York state-chartered banks for one year, and warned that some banks could face similar bans over their money-laundering violations.
"We're considering some new, similar ideas when it comes to our investigations into banks that used their dollar-clearing operations to launder money, but we have not come to any firm conclusions on that issue yet," he said.
Lawsky was speaking at an event hosted by the Exchequer Club in Washington, D.C.