All bark and no bite: the political economy of bank fines in Anglo-America

Huw Macartney, Paola Calcagno

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2 Citations (Scopus)
316 Downloads (Pure)


Since the global financial crisis, the Anglo-American banking sector has been hit by revelation after revelation of mis-selling, fraud, and collusion. In response, state managers in the US and the UK have leveled over £326bn in financial penalties. Authorities claimed that fines were aimed at de-incentivizing misconduct. Drawing on a critical political economy account however, this paper argues that the penalties had a rather different objective: they were part of a populist strategy by state managers, deflecting criticism away from the financialization of Anglo-America. First we show the questionable economic impact of the fines on the banks, before exploring the terms of the penalties themselves. Second, we show how state managers used the fines to respond to a legitimacy crisis, whilst the financialization of Anglo-America since the global financial crisis has only worsened. The article expands on existing explanations in the legal studies literature, and is one of the first political economy accounts of bank fines since the GFC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-665
Number of pages36
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019


  • banking regulation
  • financialization
  • Anglo-America
  • financial markets
  • banking
  • financial


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