This week, what many skeptics have come to consider the unthinkable happened: A Wall Street banker faced certain legal consequences for unscrupulous trading practices. On Tuesday, reports the Christian Science Monitor, former Goldman Sachs banker Rohit Bansa agreed to plead guilty to charges of taking confidential documents from a source at his former employer, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Bansa could face up to a year in prison and a permanent ban from the banking industry for using the leaked documents to gain an unfair advantage when facing clients. Goldman Sachs could face up to $50 million in related fines. Bansa's case is remarkable because criminal prosecutions are rare on Wall Street. It comes as the federal government has put a new emphasis on holding individual executives accountable for their companies’ actions, and as white-collar workers and executives in other corners of the corporate world are being held accountable for corporate wrongdoing.
The ongoing trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship marks “the first time in 150 years of Appalachian mining that the top boss of a coal firm has ever had to answer for how he ran his company,” says Slate. Last month, the former CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a deadly salmonella outbreak in peanut butter. Meanwhile, a U.S. Justice Department investigation into FIFA, world soccer's governing body, is focused on high-ranking officials and top aides to former president Sepp Blatter on charges of corruption. Those cases, along with upcoming legal action surrounding Volkswagen’s falsifying emissions tests on millions of diesel fueled vehicles, will test the Justice Department mandate. For organizations like VW, Goldman Sachs, and FIFA, it could be the end of a legal landscape where cases can be settled with a few multibillion dollar checks.