From Saul Goodman of "Breaking Bad" to Harold Melvoin of "The Sopranos," sleazy lawyers on the teevee are always giving criminals career advice. This happens in real life, too.
The latest example: Lawyers are apparently telling bankers to pretend they are peons that clean toilets and such in order to avoid regulation, according to a report at the U.K. web site eFinancialCareers.
"If you’re a banker, it’s far better for your job to be described in menial terms, said one lawyer," writes eFC's Sarah Butcher. "That way, you can’t be held accountable for too much."
This is not unlike how, on his lawyer's advice, Tony Soprano let Junior Soprano pretend to run North Jersey in order to shield himself from a federal indictment.
"If you’re running a trading floor and your job description simply says you’re the cleaner for the gentleman’s toilets, the financial services regulator will be forced to prove you’re really responsible for the entire floor before including you in an investigation," one lawyer tells Butcher.
The story is especially pertinent in light of the ongoing investigation on both sides of the Atlantic of the years-long, constant manipulation of the the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, which affects borrowing costs throughout the global economy. Not to mention the ongoing probe into JPMorgan Chase's "London Whale" trading debacle. Or JPMorgan's alleged energy-market manipulation. Or the alleged manipulation by many banks of oil prices. Or the alleged manipulation by many banks of gold and silver. Or that whole financial-crisis thing. Et cetera et cetera.
So many potential attorneys' fees!
According to lawyers quoted in Butcher's story, there may be 100 individual traders under investigation by British financial regulators for their role in manipulating LIBOR. Regulators in the U.S., U.K. and Europe have spent much of the past year hammering out large settlements with banks like Barclays and UBS. So far, only a handful of individual traders have been charged in the case. This story suggests that more individual charges may be on the way. In the meantime, those under investigation are prohibited from trading while they endure prolonged investigations. It's "outrageous really," says one banker to Butcher.
Bankers wishing to avoid such unpleasantness in the future would be wise to heed these lawyers' advice. Of course, they could also simply avoid breaking the law. But where is the fun and profit in that? Remember: A good lawyer will defend you if you've committed a crime. A great lawyer will help you commit better crimes.
Anyway, you should really go read the whole story here.