What Regulators Must Consider Before Punishing Individual Bankers

What Regulators Must Consider Before Punishing Individual Bankers

“Why aren’t we holding the individuals responsible for the financial crisis accountable?” It is a question that has been repeated so many times over the last five years that no one seems to expect an answer. But the question was raised again recently by Benjamin Lawsky, head of the New York State Department of Financial Services, with a public promise to name names and hold individuals accountable in enforcement actions going forward.

In public remarks before the Exchequer Club in Washington, Lawsky stated that in order to deter misconduct and incentivize ethical behavior on Wall Street, regulators must not only hold corporations accountable, but also the individuals who engaged in the misconduct on behalf of the corporation.

First, he stated that regulators “should publicly expose—in great detail—the actual, specific misconduct that individual employees engage in.” Second, he stated that “where appropriate—individuals should face real, serious penalties and sanctions when they break the rules.” To this end, in addition to imprisonment for criminal violations, Lawsky proposed “suspensions, firings, bonus claw-backs, and other types of penalties in the regulatory context.”

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