There are several reasons for this. Firstly, very few of these people have committed actual crimes under existing national or international law: endangering the international financial system isn't currently a crime, so unless there is evidence of actual fraud there is no basis for prosecuting these people. Secondly, there is no independent international body capable of conducting such an investigation or prosecuting the culprits. Thirdly, there is insufficient understanding of the global nature of the crisis. People still talk as if the banking collapse was in "their" country: so, for example, they will call for a UK enquiry into the collapse of Northern Rock, HBOS and RBS, without seeing that these need to be examined in the context of a worldwide catastrophic collapse of retail and investment banking.
And yet within the last century the international community, horrified by what was done, did create an international body capable of prosecuting people for crimes that previously had never been imagined. I refer, of course, to the Nuremberg trials after World War II, and the subsequent creation of the International Criminal Court. We have not had a war, and in no way can the financial crisis be regarded as repeating the horrors of the Holocaust. But the devastation that was caused in the financial crisis has nevertheless wrecked lives and communities, and we are nowhere near recovering from it yet. It seems appropriate to regard what was done as similar to war crimes.
So I would like to propose the following:
- The creation of a new international crime of "endangering the global financial system and/or seeking to profit from its collapse"
- An international body under the aegis of the United Nations to identify those principally responsible for the 2008 financial crisis and where appropriate to bring prosecutions against them in the International Criminal Court
- The establishment of a permanent international overseeing body for the global financial system, with powers to call to account, and if necessary bring prosecutions against, the management of systemically-important institutions who act recklessly in pursuit of individual or corporate profit.
I realise that this would involve nations voluntarily surrendering some control of institutions that they consider their own. It would particularly be an issue for the US and UK, I think. But in the interests of peace, nations have already surrendered the right to bring to justice war criminals themselves. Surely it is now time that nations surrendered the right to control financial institutions that, if mismanaged, can endanger the economy of the entire world?
UPDATE. I should make it clear there that the problem as I see it is that finance is an international industry, but there is no international body capable of regulating it or bringing to account those who endanger it. The Nuremberg trials were criticised for the fact that they prosecuted people for crimes that did not exist in law at the time they were committed. This is a reasonable criticism, and it may be that it would not be appropriate to attempt to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 crisis. But we should look firstly to investigate how the crisis happened, how it was managed and what we can learn from it for the future: this should be done impartially and from an international perspective. Secondly, we should look to put in place international laws and institutions to deal with these problems in the future. National laws and institutions are inadequate.