Senior bankers who are particularly reckless with customers’ – or taxpayers’ – money should face criminal charges, fines, and even jail terms.
That is the main recommendation from a British parliamentary commission on banking standards.
It also wants the bonuses of failed bankers to be taken back and for them to lose their pensions.
Lawyers say it would be very difficult to prove such accusations and they doubt that new laws would be effective.
But British Prime Minister David Cameron, aware of public anger, backed the idea.
Speaking in parliament he said: “Penalising, including criminal penalties, against bankers who behave irresponsibly, I say yes. And also, making sure that banks who are in receipt of taxpayers’ money, that you can claw back, and a ban on bonuses, I say yes too.”
Many Britons blame bankers’ risk-taking for the 2008 financial crisis and the economic slump that followed.
The Banking Standards Commission’s report found deep lapses in standards were commonplace and recent scandals had exposed “shocking and widespread malpractice” in the industry.
“Taxpayers and customers have lost out. The economy has suffered. The reputation of the financial sector has been gravely damaged. Trust in banking has fallen to a new low,” the commission’s chairman Andrew Tyrie said in a 500-page report.
The cross-party group, which includes former British finance minister Nigel Lawson and Justin Welby, head of the Anglican church, recommended that as well as senior bankers being held personally responsible regulators should be granted greater powers.