Al Jazeera
by Sasha Werblin

Last week Bank of America reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to the tune of $16.65 billion for its role in selling faulty mortgages in the financial crisis. Such big-dollar settlements with large banks — including, in the past year, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase — sound like harsh punishments but in actuality amount only to slaps on the wrist.

For one, those colossal dollar figures are rarely the actual prices the banks will pay. The real costs to these companies is muddled by tax deductions, unclear directives and accounting loopholes. The secretive negotiation process for settlements is also inconsistent with the civil and criminal process the average American faces.

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