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THE 10-year anniversary of the financial crash led to retrospective talk among pundits and politicians about whether the banks got away with it.
But for the banks, it was business as usual, offering money and support to politicians. Labour MP Wes Streeting, an influential backbencher with a seat on the Treasury select committee, listed a £5,000 payment from JP Morgan for speaking on a panel at its London High Yield Conference this September.
Streeting says the work took six hours, so that’s an £833-an-hour rate from the bank. JP Morgan was one of the bigger sinners of the crash: it was fined a record $13 billion in 2013 for misrepresenting the bundles of “toxic” mortgages it sold to investors as good investments.
Bundles of bad mortgages sold at inflated prices were one of the central cheats driving the global crash. JP Morgan also cheated the ordinary folk who took out mortgages: it was fined $5.29bn in 2012 for “deceptive” practices in forcing distressed mortgage holders into “foreclosure” in the US.
JP Morgan sinned in London too — it was fined $920 million for laxness that allowed a British-based trader — the “London Whale” — to cover up massive losses.
JP Morgan has a history of paying politicians. In 2008, it hired Tony Blair as a £2m a year consultant. I was surprised at Streeting — who seems one of the more alert of the Progress group of MPs — doing the JP Morgan gig.
He told me: “I regularly engage in conferences and discussions on Brexit and a wide range of issues. On this occasion, it was a debate against a Conservative peer. Where a fee is paid, as in this case, I accept and make sure that this is declared in the usual way with the parliamentary authorities.”
I asked him if Labour MPs shouldn’t be keener to “crack down” on the banks than work for them. He told me that he thought that “through bank bail-outs and quantitative easing, banks have been the biggest recipients of state benefits in British history. That’s why I support measures to tackle aggressive multinational tax avoidance, higher banking levies and an increase in corporation tax so that the costs of ending austerity are borne by the wealthiest individuals and corporations, rather than people on low and middle incomes.”
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