Friday morning Morgan Stanley (MS) reported better-than-expected earnings. This report rounded out an earnings week dominated by financial firms, including Citigroup (C), J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Bank of America (BAC).
So, what have these earnings revealed about the economy and the health of the banking system?
"The banking system is fine, thanks, and you?" quips Jeff Macke, host of Yahoo Finance's Breakout. In terms of the economy, "mortgages are slowing down a little bit both in terms of refinancing and applications. That's okay. That's where we should be in the economy."
Politico's Ben White address the bigger picture for banks in a new column:
"In 2009, Washington went to war against big Wall Street banks hoping to blow up the kind of high-risk, high-reward strategies that helped spark the financial crisis. Five years later, that war is largely over. And Washington won in a blowout."
Among the evidence White cites is the the tens of billions of dollars in settlement cash J.P. Morgan is paying to the government and the Dodd-Frank reforms that have led bulge-bracket firms to sell off some of their classic "Wall Street" businesses such as proprietary trading. White calls Goldman Sachs "a shell of its former self."
Macke disagrees, to put it lightly. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life," he says. "Wall Street won by far...the idea they were actually in a fight was silly." Check out the video to see his reasons why.
Meanwhile, newly analyzed data reveals the Justice Department hasn't charged employees at two-thirds of the close to 400 companies that have settled criminal investigations or been convicted of crimes in recent years. The data, from a University of Virginia law professor, once again raises the oft-debated question of whether the government should have held individuals -- including high-level executives -- accountable when it charged financial firms with criminal wrongdoing related to the financial crisis.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, for one, has recently said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the emphasis on charging corporations is "misplaced" and that holding their employees accountable should be a higher priority.
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