These are bad days for big boys in high finance

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Investment banking's golden era ... over?

These are not happy days for big banks whether on Wall Street or Fleet Street.

There's been a steady stream of negative headlines suggesting that five years after the end of the financial crisis, the bell finally may be tolling for too-big-to-fail financial institutions.

Consider:

  • JPMorgan Chase and Barclays both have announced huge first-quarter trading declines—20 percent and 41 percent respectively—and others are expected to follow suit. Barclays said it will begin a massive layoff program in which it will lose 19,000 employees over the next two and a half years.
  • Fines from regulators continue to pile up stemming from crisis-era bad behavior. The latest domino looks to be Bank of America, which could have to pay a levy in excess of the $13 billion already extracted from JPMorgan.
  • Recent leaks in major publications indicate that Credit Suisse is nearing a settlement that will see it plead guilty to criminal charges for aiding its customers in avoiding taxes; BNP Paribas also faces possible sanctions from the U.S. for dealing with countries on an embargo list—with the end result likely being in excess of $1 billion in penalties.

All told, this is not a great time to be running a major global financial institution.