TIME celebrities

Actress Emma Thompson, Husband Mull Withholding Taxes After HSBC Scandal

Actress Emma Thompson arrives for the British Independent Film Awards at Old Billingsgate Market in central London, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.
Joel Ryan—Invision/AP Actress Emma Thompson arrives for the British Independent Film Awards at Old Billingsgate Market in central London, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.

Thompson's husband Greg Wise said the couple are "not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison"

Two-time Academy Award–winning actress Emma Thompson may refuse to pay taxes until those implicated in the HSBC tax evasion scandal go to prison, according her husband Greg Wise.

“I am disgusted with [the HM Revenue and Customs]. I am disgusted with HSBC. And I’m not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison,” Wise told the Evening Standard in an interview this week.

And Wise made it clear that Thompson was fully supportive of the proposed boycott. “Em’s on board. She agrees. We’re going to get a load of us together. A movement,” he added.

The acting couple’s disgust stems from a decision by the U.K. customs department to not prosecute anyone after leaks detailed misconduct in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, including helping chief executive Stuart Gulliver shelter over $7 million in a Swiss account away from the taxman’s gaze.

Thompson is an iconic British actress who won two Best Actress Oscars, first in 1992 for her role in the movie Howard’s End, and in 1995 for Sense and Sensibility. She has been nominated for three other Academy Awards.

TIME Saving & Spending

This Will Change the Way You Use Your Visa Card Forever

American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are displayed for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Credit-card firms caught off-guard by U.S. Senate passage of curbs on debit fees are facing what one executive sees as a "volcanic" eruption of legislation, including possible limits on interest rates. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg/Getty Images

It could majorly cut down on theft and fraud

This is one of those tech advances that are simultaneously cool and disturbing. Visa is adding a feature to the smartphone apps of member banks that lets banks know when a customer is traveling.

Convenient! This way, your card won’t be automatically declined just because you happen to be 50 miles or more away from home—a situation that can trigger an alert to a bank’s fraud department. Your bank, thanks to your phone’s location feature, will already know exactly where you are. Scary! Well, maybe.

It’s hard to decide. Fewer hassles are always good, of course. Nobody wants to be that poor sap standing hapless and red-faced at the checkout counter with a declined card. But do we really want our banks tracking our movements? (The financial crisis gave Americans plenty of reasons to think twice.)

Thankfully, the feature, Visa Mobile Location Confirmation, coming in April, will be entirely opt-in. Customers have to knowingly turn it on for it to work. Big Brother isn’t really so terrifying when you’re inviting him to watch you.

It’s entirely understandable that banks would want as many as people as possible to use the feature—they lose billions to debit- and credit-card fraud every year, and those numbers are on the rise. But the feature is not a panacea, of course. For instance, it won’t help if someone’s phone and bank card are stolen at the same time.

On balance, though, it seems like a net win for both banks and consumers.

TIME Hacking

Hackers Steal $1 Billion in Massive, Worldwide Breach

Russian Retail-Sales Growth Unexpectedly Gains Amid Ruble Crisis
Bloomberg/Getty Images

A prominent cybersecurity firm says that thieves have infiltrated more than 100 banks in 30 countries over the past two years

Hackers have stolen as much as $1 billion from banks around the world, according to a prominent cybersecurity firm. In a report scheduled to be delivered Monday, Russian security company Kaspersky Lab claims that a hacking ring has infiltrated more than 100 banks in 30 countries over the past two years.

Kaspersky says digital thieves gained access to banks’ computer systems through phishing schemes and other confidence scams. Hackers then lurked in the institutions’ systems, taking screen shots or even video of employees at work. Once familiar with the banks’ operations, the hackers could steal funds without raising alarms, programming ATMs to dispense money at specific times for instance or transferring funds to fraudulent accounts. First outlined by the New York Times, the report will be presented Monday at a security conference in Mexico.

The hackers seem to limit their scores to about $10 million before moving on to another bank, Kaspersky principal security researcher Vicente Diaz told the Associated Press. This helps avoid detection; the crimes appear to be motivated primarily by financial gain. “In this case they are not interested in information. They’re only interested in the money,” he said. “They’re flexible and quite aggressive and use any tool they find useful for doing whatever they want to do.”

[New York Times]

TIME Economy

What’s Really to Blame for Weak Economic Growth

The George Washington statue stands covered in snow near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. Wind-driven snow whipped through New Yorks streets and piled up in Boston as a fast-moving storm brought near-blizzard conditions to parts of the Northeast, closing roads, grounding flights and shutting schools.
Jin Lee—Bloomberg via Getty Images The George Washington statue stands covered in snow near the New York Stock Exchange

Finance is a cause, not a symptom, of weaker economic growth

After years of hardship, America’s middle class has gotten some positive news in the last few months. The country’s economic recovery is gaining steam, consumer spending is starting to tick up (it grew at more than 4 % last quarter), and even wages have started to improve slightly. This has understandably led some economists and analysts to conclude that the shrinking middle phenomenon is over.

At the risk of being a Cassandra, I’d argue that the factors that are pushing the recovery and working in the favor of the middle class right now—lower oil prices, a stronger dollar, and the end of quantitative easing—are cyclical rather than structural. (QE, Ruchir Sharma rightly points out in The Wall Street Journal, actually increased inequality by boosting the share-owning class more than anyone else.) That means the slight positive trends can change—and eventually, they will.

The piece of economic data I’m most interested in right now is actually a new report from Wallace Turbeville, a former Goldman Sachs banker and a senior fellow at think tank Demos, which looks at the effect of financialization on economic growth and the fate of the working and middle class. Financialization, a topic which I’m admitted biased toward since I’m writing a book about it, is the way in which the markets have come to dominate the economy, rather than serving them.

This includes everything from the size of the financial sector (still at record highs, even after the financial crisis and bailouts), to the way in which the financial markets dictate the moves of non-financial businesses (think “activist” investors and the pressure around quarterly results). The rise of finance since the 1980s has coincided with both the shrinking paycheck of most workers and a lower number of business start-ups and growth-creating innovation.

This topic has been buzzing in academic circles for years, but Turberville, who is aces at distilling complex economic data in a way that the general public can understand, goes some way toward illustrating how the economic and political strength of the financial sector, and financially driven capitalism, has created a weaker than normal recovery. (Indeed, it’s the weakest of the post war era.) His work explains how financialization is the chief underlying force that is keeping growth and wages disproportionately low–offsetting much of the effects of monetary policy as well as any of the temporary boosts to the economy like lower oil or a stronger dollar.

I think this research and what it implies—that finance is a cause, not a symptom of weaker economic growth—is going to have a big impact on the 2016 election discussion. For starters, if you believe that the financial sector and non-productive financial activities on the part of regular businesses—like the $2 trillion overseas cash hoarding we’ve heard so much about—is a cause of economic stagnation, rather than a symptom, that has profound implications for policy.

For example, as Turberville points out, banks and policy makers dealt with the financial crisis by tightening standards on average borrowers (people like you and me, who may still find it tough to get mortgages or refinance). While there were certainly some folks who shouldn’t have been getting loans for houses, keeping the spigots tight on average borrowers, which most economists agree was and is a key reason that the middle class suffered disproportionately in the crisis and Great Recession, doesn’t address the larger issue of the financial sector using capital mainly to enrich itself, via trading and other financial maneuvers, rather than lending to the real economy.

Former British policy maker and banking regular Adair Turner famously said once that he believed only about 15 % of the money that followed through the financial sector went back into the real economy to enrich average people. The rest of it merely stayed at the top, making the rich richer, and slowing economic growth. This Demos paper provides some strong evidence that despite the cyclical improvements in the economy, we’ve still got some serious underlying dysfunction in our economy that is creating an hourglass shaped world in which the fruits of the recovery aren’t being shared equally, and that inequality itself stymies growth.

MONEY Banking

How Lending Club Could Save Community Banks

But their strategy doesn't come without risk.

A consortium of community banks believes it has found a way to compete with their larger peers in the market for consumer loans, a business that has come to be dominated by too-big-to-fail lenders like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase.

On Monday, BancAlliance, a network of nearly 200 community banks, announced that its members will use LendingClub LENDINGCLUB LC 3.8% , a newly public company that operates an online lending platform, to construct portfolios of consumer loans.

Here’s how The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story at the beginning of this week, explains it:

Members of BancAlliance […] will start using Lending Club, a website that facilitates loans to individuals, to build new portfolios of consumer loans. The banks will each commit to buy a certain amount of loans from Lending Club, which will vet borrowers for their ability to repay. The borrowers will come either from the bank’s own customers, whom the bank will send to a Lending Club website, or other borrowers that come directly to Lending Club.

The banks are expected to buy unsecured loans of less than $35,000 without requiring collateral. Until now, small banks generally haven’t been able to justify the cost of underwriting those loans because big banks can do so much more efficiently.

It’s hard to deny that this is a smart way for community banks to level the playing field in an increasingly concentrated industry.

Since the mid-1990s, the country’s smallest banks have been supplanted as the major source of consumer lending. This is the result of mergers and acquisitions that have created a top-heavy industry dominated by a handful of massive banks. And along with size, at least in theory, comes economies of scale, which make it nearly impossible for small banks to compete against a multitrillion-dollar giant like Bank of America.

Thus, by banding together to syndicate larger loans through Lending Club’s credit platform, BancAlliance is addressing the issue head-on.

But it’s important to note that this strategy doesn’t come without risk. One of the lessons history teaches us about banking is that outsourcing credit decisions can lead to disaster. There are numerous examples of this, but two from the recent past stand out from the rest.

In the early 1980s, some of the nation’s biggest banks outsourced the origination of oil and gas loans to Penn Square Bank, an Oklahoma City-based lender that specialized in the energy industry. It wasn’t until after the syndicated loans began defaulting that the correspondent lenders, including Chicago’s Continental Illinois Bank and Seattle’s Seafirst Bank, learned they had been shoddily originated and lacked proper documentation. In the fallout, Continental Illinois, the nation’s seventh biggest bank at the time, was seized by regulators while Seafirst had to be rescued by Bank of America.

Virtually the same thing happened in the financial crisis of 2008-2009. In that case, mortgage originators like Countrywide Financial and Ameriquest underwrote billions of dollars in toxic sub-prime home loans that were then sold to bigger banks as well as to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was largely these loans, in turn, that went on to cost many of the nation’s biggest banks tens of billions of dollars in credit losses and elevated legal costs.

This is why JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said that the decision to use mortgage brokers was the “biggest mistake of his career.” It’s why Bank of America has since shuttered its correspondent mortgage operations altogether. And it’s the reason many other leading lenders — including Citigroup, MetLife, and Ally Financial — have all reduced their reliance on third-party loan originators.

What makes the present case even more suspect is Lending Club’s, at least in my opinion, cavalier attitude toward credit risk. The company purports to offer borrowers a “convenient, simple, and fast online application that improves the often time-consuming and frustrating loan application process.” But here’s the thing: there’s a reason the credit application process takes time. Determining a borrower’s creditworthiness isn’t only about running a sophisticated algorithm. It’s also about assessing the character of perspective borrowers. And that takes time.

Along these same lines, here’s how Lending Club pitches its services to potential credit providers: “We use proprietary credit decisioning and scoring models and extensive historical loan performance data to provide investors with tools to construct loan portfolios confidently and model targeted returns.” While this too sounds great, it evidences a level of confidence that isn’t warranted by Lending Club’s experience.

For instance, consider these findings from the FDIC about the prevalence of failures in the 1980s and 1990s among the then-most recently chartered banks and thrifts:

  • “Banks chartered in the 1980s and mutual institutions converting to the stock form of ownership failed with greater frequency than comparable banks.”
  • “Of all the institutions chartered in 1980-90, 16.2 percent failed through 1994, compared with a 7.6 percent failure rate for banks that were already in existence on December 31, 1979.”
  • “Although the data are dominated by the Texas experience, in most areas banks chartered in the 1980s generally had a higher failure rate than banks existing at the beginning of the 1980s.”

It’s worth noting as well that this isn’t the first time we’ve heard predictions about the ability to reduce credit risk. Most recently, in the years before the crisis of 2008-2009, lenders thought that credit default swaps, financial derivatives developed by JPMorgan in the 1990s, had effectively freed banks from the centuries-old menace. But in reality, swaps had merely substituted counterparty risk in the place of credit risk. You’d be excused, in other words, for harboring suspicions about claims that someone can “construct loan portfolios confidently and model targeted returns” (emphasis mine).

The net result is that BancAlliance’s strategy, while promising on its face, certainly isn’t a guaranteed panacea. Its success depends on Lending Club’s ability to consistently originate high-quality consumer loans through all stages of the credit cycle. Will the upstart lending platform be able to meet this challenge? That remains to be seen, but it should be watched closely in the meantime.

MONEY financial crisis

By This Measure, Banks Are Safer Today Than Before the Financial Crisis

150209_INV_BanksSafer
iStock

At least from the standpoint of liquidity, the nation's banks have come a long way over the last few years to build a safer and more stable financial system.

If you study the history of bank failures, one thing stands out: While banks typically get into trouble because of poor credit discipline, their actual failure is generally triggered by illiquidity. Fortunately, banks appear to have learned this lesson — though we probably have the 2010 Dodd Frank Act to thank for that — as lenders like Bank of America BANK OF AMERICA CORP. BAC -2.67% and others have taken significant steps over the last few years to reduce liquidity risk.

It’s important to keep in mind that banks are nothing more than leveraged funds. They start with a sliver of capital, borrow money from depositors and creditors, and then use the combined proceeds to buy assets. The difference between what they earn on those assets and what they pay to borrow the funds makes up their net revenue — or, at least, a significant part of it.

Because this model allows you to make money with other peoples’ money, it’s a thing of beauty when the economy is growing and there are no warning signs on the horizon. But it’s much less so when things take a turn for the worse. This follows from the fact that a bank’s funding could dry up if creditors lose faith in its ability to repay them, or if they need the money themselves. And if a bank’s funding sources dry up, then it may be forced to dispose of assets quickly and at fire-sale prices in order to pay its creditors back.

This is why some funding sources are better than others. Deposits are the best because they are the least likely to flee at the first sign of trouble. Within deposits, moreover, insured consumer deposits are preferable, at least in this respect, to large foreign, corporate, or institutional deposits, which carry a greater threat of flight risk because they often exceed the FDIC’s insurance limit.

The second most stable source of funds is long-term debt, as this typically can’t be called by creditors until it matures. Finally, the least stable source consists of short-term debt, including overnight loans from other banks as well as funds from the “repo” and/or commercial paper markets. Because these must be rolled over at regular intervals, sometimes even nightly, they give a bank’s creditors the option of not doing so.

It should come as no surprise, then, that many of the biggest bank failures in history stemmed from an over-reliance on either short-term credit or on large institutional depositors. This was the reason scores of New York’s biggest and most prestigious banks had to suspend withdrawals in the Panic of 1873, during which correspondent banks located throughout the country simultaneously rushed to withdraw their deposits from money center banks after panic broke out on Wall Street. This was also the case a century later, when Continental Illinois became the first too-big-to-fail bank in 1984. It was the case at countless savings and loans during the 1980s. And it’s what took down Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual in the financial crisis of 2008-09.

A corollary to this rule is that one way to measure a bank’s susceptibility to failure — which, as I discuss here, should always be at the forefront of investors, analysts, and bankers’ minds — is to gauge how heavily it relies on short-term credit and institutional deposits as opposed to retail deposits and long-term loans. If a bank relies too heavily on the former, particularly in relation to its illiquid assets, then that’s an obvious sign of weakness. If it doesn’t, then that’s a sign of strength — though, it’s by no means a guarantee that a bank is otherwise prudently managed.

One way to gauge this is simply to look at what percentage of a bank’s funds derive from short-term loans as opposed to more stable sources. As you can see in the chart below, for instance, Bank of America gets roughly 16% of its funds from the short-term money market. That’s worse than a smaller, simpler bank like U.S. Bancorp, which looks to the money market for only 9% of its liquidity, but it’s nevertheless better than, say, Bank of America’s former reliance on short-term funds, which came in at 31% in 2005. Indeed, as William Cohen intimates in House of Cards, one of the “dirty little secret[s]” of Wall Street companies prior to the crisis was how much they relied on overnight repo funding to prop up their operations.

A second way to measure this is to compare a bank’s funding sources to the liquidity of its assets, and loans in particular, as loans are one of the least liquid types of assets held on a bank’s balance sheet. This is the function of the loan-to-deposit ratio, which estimates whether a bank’s deposits can singlehandedly fund its loan book. If deposits exceed loans — though, remember that not all deposits are created equal — then a bank could theoretically withstand a liquidity run by pruning its securities portfolio or using parts thereof as collateral in exchange for cash. This would protect it from the need to unload loans at fire-sale prices which, in turn, could render the bank insolvent.

Overall, as the chart above illustrates, the bank industry has aggressively reduced its loan-to-deposit ratio since the crisis. In 2006, it was upwards of 96%. Today, it’s closer to 70%. It can’t be denied that some of this downward trend has to do with the historically low interest rate environment, which reduces the incentive of depositors to alternate out of deposits and into low-yielding securities. But it’s also safe to assume that banks have intentionally brought this number down to shore up their balance sheets, and in response to the heightened liquidity requirements of the post-crisis regulatory regime.

Whatever the motivations are behind these trends, one thing is certain: At least from the standpoint of liquidity, the nation’s banks have come a long way over the last few years to build a safer and more stable financial system. This doesn’t mean we won’t have banking crises and liquidity runs in the future, as history speaks clearly on the point that we will. But it does mean that, for the time being anyhow, this is one less thing for bank investors to worry about.

TIME Cybercrime

This Could Be the End of User Name and Password

Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky Interview
Scott Eels—Bloomberg/Getty Images Benjamin Lawsky superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York on Nov. 24, 2014.

Anthem, J.P. Morgan hacks could lead to tougher online security.

A top New York State regulator is “very likely” to impose new cyber-security rules on much of the banking and insurance industries after high profile cyber-intrusions at Anthem and JP Morgan Chase, law enforcement officials tell TIME.

The move could spell the beginning of the end for a decade-long debate among state and federal regulators over whether to require companies to go beyond the simple user name and password identity checks required to access many computer networks at the heart of America’s financial system and could affect everyone from employees at those firms to the consumers they serve.

Early investigations in the Anthem case suggest foreign hackers used the user name and password of a company executive to get inside Anthem’s system and make off with personal data for 80 million people, including names, addresses and Social Security numbers, the law enforcement officials tell TIME. Anthem had invested in extensive cyber defenses in recent years, but the officials say initial investigations suggest the theft could have been averted if the company had embraced tougher methods for verifying the identity of those trying to access its systems.

That shortcoming reflects systemic weaknesses found throughout the industry in an upcoming study by the New York State Department of Financial Services, a version of which was reviewed by TIME. Among the most worrying findings was a marked level of over-confidence among insurance industry officials regarding the security of their systems. “Anthem is a wake-up call to the insurance sector really showing that there is a huge potential vulnerability here,” says Benjamin Lawsky, the department’s superintendent.

While many big health, life and property insurers boast robust cyber-defenses, including encryption for data transfers, firewalls, and anti-virus software, many still rely on relatively weak verification methods for employees and consumers, and have lax controls over third-party vendors that have access to their systems and the personal data contained there, according to the report. The study follows a similar review by Lawsky’s office of the banking sector late last year that led to tighter cyber-examinations for banks doing business in New York.

As the fourth-largest state and the home to many of the corporations in question, New York could affect consumers in other states with its decisions.

For more than a decade, federal and state regulators have debated measures to require increased security at banks and insurance companies that handle the financial and personal details of hundreds of millions of Americans. In 2005, the federal body charged with setting the examination standards for federal regulators concluded [pdf] that simple user name and password systems were “inadequate” for “transactions involving access to customer information or the movement of funds to other parties,” but stopped short of requiring tighter measures. Updated guidance in 2011 [pdf] also stopped short of requiring them.

MORE Apple Might Make Computers You Control With Hand Gestures

The primary federal regulator of big banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) says different banks need to assess their own risks in determining whether to use additional verification methods. Other regulators have worried that if one agency, like the New York State Department of Financial Services, tightens standards on its own, the result will be a patchwork of rules that make life difficult for banks doing business across the country.

Still, most agree that username and password security alone is increasingly vulnerable to hackers. As American Banker reports:

Most of the security breaches that occur in banking today use compromised credentials. More than 900 million consumer records have been stolen [in 2014] alone, according to Risk Based Security; 66.3% included passwords and 56.9% included usernames. According to Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report, weak or stolen login credentials were a factor in more than 76% of the breaches analyzed.

The additional measures New York State is likely to require are known as “multi-factor authentication” and include a range of approaches to verify the identity of those trying to sign on to a computer system. Options include sending a confirmation number to an individual’s cell phone, using a fingerprint or other biometric authentication, or using a separate identification source, like a swipe card.

Lawsky has not decided whether his new rule would require institutions to use multi-factor authentication only for employees and third-party vendors, or whether consumers would be required to use them too. However, requiring major banks and insurers under his purview—such as Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Anthem and others—to adopt multi-factor authentication could change the industry standard.

Lawsky says he is eager to see that change. “The password system should have been buried a long time ago, and its high time we buried it,” Lawsky tells TIME. “We really need everyone to go to a system of multi-factor verification. It is just too easy, whether through basic hacking or through phishing or stealing basic information, for hackers to get a password and a user name and then to get into a system,” he says.

MORE Why Your Passwords Are Easy To Hack

State and federal officials have argued that banking and insurance cyber vulnerabilities pose a threat not just to the accounts of individual consumers, but potentially to the stability of the entire financial system. The Obama administration’s recently released National Security Strategy says, “the danger of disruptive and even destructive cyber-attack is growing,” thanks to “malicious government, criminal, and individual actors,” targeting the networked infrastructure on which economy, safety, and health rely.

The New York State Department of Financial Services study of the insurance industry shows most are largely convinced they are confronting and defeating hackers. 58% claimed they had experienced no security breaches during the three years preceding the 2013-14 study, while 35% said they had only between one and five such incidents.

To some that suggests naiveté on the part of the industry. As FBI Director James Comey said last fall, “There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.”

In addition to the new rules on identity verification, Lawsky expects to impose new requirements on third-party vendors that have access to insurance company databases. Those vendors often have lower cyber-security standards and are not required to describe those standards to the companies even though they often have full access to personal data held by the company.

Read next: The 7 Biggest Lies You’ve Been Told About Hacking

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A rule in the Affordable Care Act could make hospitals safer.

By Mike Corones at Reuters

2. As U.S. influence in the Middle East wanes, the United Arab Emirates is stepping up.

By Steven A. Cook in the Octavian Report

3. How do you extend banking services to an industry that’s illegal under federal law? Colorado’s answer is a credit union for pot growers and sellers.

By David Migoya in the Denver Post

4. A simple step — lighting pathways to latrines and latrines themselves in rural areas — can improve safety for women and girls.

By Dr. Michelle Hynes and Dr. Michelle Dynes at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

5. The International Olympic Committee vote to protect gay athletes is an important first step, but more work remains.

By Laura Clise in the Advocate

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Research

Study Suggests Banking Industry Breeds Dishonesty

Bank industry culture “seems to make [employees] more dishonest,” a study author says

Bank employees are more likely to exhibit dishonesty when discussing their jobs, a new study found.

Researchers out of Switzerland tested employees from several industries during a coin-toss game that offered money if their coins matched researcher’s. According to Reuters, there was “a considerable incentive to cheat” given the maximum pay-off of $200. One hundred and twenty-eight employees from one bank were tested and were found to be generally as honest as everyone else when asked questions about their personal lives prior to flipping the coin, the Associated Press reports. But when they were asked about work before the toss, they were more inclined toward giving false answers, the study determined.

The author of the study says bankers are not any more dishonest than other people, but that the culture of the industry “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The American Bankers Association rebuffed the study’s findings to the AP.

“While this study looks at one bank, America’s 6,000 banks set a very high bar when it comes to the honesty and integrity of their employees. Banks take the fiduciary responsibility they have for their customers very seriously,” the Association said.

[AP]

MONEY Banking

Guess Which Big Bank Has the Unhappiest Customers

Shovel burying money in hole in backyard
Summer Derrick—Getty Images

A new poll finds consumers are disappointed across the board with their banks—but credit unions fared far better.

Customers have grown less happy with their banks over the past year, according to a new American Customer Satisfaction Index survey. Blame low interest rates and high fees, as well as decreasing access to ATMs and branch locations.

More than 1,500 Americans were polled on their experiences with their banks and credit unions for the study, which was released on Tuesday.

Affirming previous studies from other organizations, consumer satisfaction was the lowest at big banks—with Bank of America and Wells Fargo faring the worst among their peers.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 5.24.36 PM
Source: ACSI

Although the survey results showed Bank of America has improved in some specific areas, a spokesperson for the bank wrote, “We know we still have some work left to do.”

The decline in scores on fees and service for retail banks overall coincides with a big growth in the number of people banking at credit unions as an alternative. “Consumers are finding that the best way to avoid bank fees may be to avoid banks altogether,” says ACSI founder Claes Fornell.

The shift isn’t surprising, given that credit unions score better on speed and “courtesy and helpfulness of staff” and can offer twice as much interest as regular retail banks.

Some of the worst categories for retail banks were “competitiveness of interest rates,” down to a score of 71 from 73 last year, and “number and location of branches,” down to 76 from 79 last year.

Satisfaction with access to ATMs was down for both banks and credit unions, as institutions have been reducing the ranks as a result of cost cutting.

Feeling unsatisfied with your own banking relationship? You could take a cue from the results and go to a credit union, for a far better shot at happiness. Most people are eligible for membership to at least one.

But if you prefer a more traditional retail bank—or a leaner, high-interest-paying online bank—use MONEY’s bank matchmaker tool to find the best fit for you.

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