Considering the kid-gloves approach of the U.S. government to the financial industry, the question is begged: in a world where many banks are too big to fail, how dumb do you have to be to get convicted for criminal fraud as a trader? Jonathan Weil takes a stab at this one in his new column:
It’s a shame the television series “America’s Dumbest Criminals” went off the air more than a decade ago, because the cases of Salmaan Siddiqui, 36, and David Higgs, 42, would have provided wonderful fodder as an example of high finance gone feloniously brain-dead. Sure, their stories might not have the same mainstream appeal as, say, the video of a gun-wielding robber at a convenience store who wore a see-through plastic bag over his head as a disguise.
Still, their forays into illegality were so painfully dimwitted they deserve to be celebrated, if only to distract us from a more unnerving aspect of their story: In all probability, lots of other bankers committed the exact same kinds of acts during the financial crisis. And the vast majority of those who did will never be prosecuted, mainly because they weren’t so dense about the way they did it.