The really interesting thing in this is the behaviour of one George Osborne. RBS is, of course, 83% (ish) state-owned. So as fines are paid out of income, the result is a lower return to the UK government. You could say that UK taxpayers "pay" the fines. Osborne rightly points out that as the FSA's fine is returned to the government, there is no net cost. But fines paid to overseas regulatory bodies are a different matter. And that is the reason for Osborne's pre-emptive strike on RBS's bonus pool.
Many people would see it as entirely reasonable that RBS should pay its US fines from the money it would otherwise have set aside to pay bonuses. But actually this is not much more reasonable than expecting the UK taxpayer to foot the bill.
Few if any of the people who would qualify for such bonuses were in any way involved in the Libor rigging. The actual people involved have left or been sacked already. So the people who will pay this fine are not the people who committed the crime. That is unfair.
And it gets worse. The majority of people working for a large bank like RBS are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs - branch staff, back-office clerks and the like. They aren't particularly well-paid and their annual bonus just gives them a little bit extra - like the Christmas bonuses traditionally paid to postmen or milkmen. But their bonuses now stand to be cut. It isn't just the highly-paid (and high-profile) "banksters and traders" who will suffer - in fact I suspect that if anything these people will have their bonuses protected. No, it will be the thousands of ordinary people who work for RBS.
Osborne has rightly acted to protect the interests of UK taxpayers in general. But he has done so by hitting people who are blameless. I suppose that was inevitable, but really it would be better if the people actually responsible for the crime paid for it. Saying they "will face the full force of the law" doesn't mean that they will suffer the financial consequences. It is too late for RBS and the other Libor-riggers - retrospective legislation is in my view iniquitous - but we urgently need to make it possible for banks and corporations to claw back bonuses when they turn out not to be justified in reality. Bankrupting criminal traders and negligent managers is without question a far better solution than hurting thousands of ordinary bank staff or millions of taxpayers.