Lots of people out there are saying the Libor scandal is the worst financial scandal of all time. But how can we even know such a thing? There's only one way: A death match.
The relative horror of a financial scandal is subjective. For instance, to me, the worst financial scandal of all time was when the AOL vending machine took my dollar and didn't give me a Snickers bar. I'll see you in hell, Champion Vending!
But many of you probably think other financial scandals are more important than that. The only way to settle this is in a bracket-style death match to decide, once and for all -- or until the next death match -- the worst financial scandal of all time.
Here's a quick review of the contestants, ranked in the order that I subjectively and unscientifically seeded them, along with the arguments in favor of each:
1. Libor scandal: For years, some of the world's biggest banks have manipulated an interest rate that affects borrowing costs for just about everybody. The scandal could cost the banks $35 billion in fines and legal costs, according to one estimate, and Libor manipulation probably cost taxpayers, borrowers and investors more than that.
2. Enron: This horrible, horrible company is special not only for its spectacular accounting fraud, but also because it managed to further screw the public by manipulating California's energy market. The Enron scandal led to Sarbanes-Oxley and the death of accounting firm Arthur Andersen.
3. Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme: In the biggest individual act of financial fraud in U.S. history, Bernie cost his victims about $18 billion. Not bad.
4. Subprime CDOs: Investment banks took junk mortgages that were hand-picked by hedge funds betting against them, crammed them into bundles and sold them to gullible investors, helping set the stage for the financial crisis of 2008.
5. Charles Ponzi, the O.G. Ponzi schemer: The Italian immigrant fleeced his victims for about $20 million in 1920, or about $229 million in 2012 money. That's not the most expensive fraud of all time, but the fact that people forever after named this kind of scheme for him puts him in the running.
6. Nick Leeson Rogue Trades: This is almost more an example of a trade gone horribly wrong (the subject of a future death match), but this trader committed fraud in hiding losses of more than $1 billion (more than $2 billion in 2012 money) from his superiors, leading to the death of Barings Bank in 1995. He is also arguably the most famous rogue trader in history.
7. Allen Stanford Ponzi Scheme: This guy bilked his victims for $7 billion over 20 years, putting him close to Madoff's league.
8. Tom Petters Ponzi Scheme: So much for Minnesota Nice: This Twin Cities businessman took $3.7 billion from his victims, making it one of the worst Ponzi schemes in history.
Stupid list, you might well be thinking. Well, feel free to write in candidates in the comments section. Maybe we can have another death match.