This morning we discussed the danger that arises from merely fining banks instead of prosecuting them for violating laws.

Since the news cycle is focusing on the potential multibillion-dollar fines for BNP Paribas SA and Bank of America Corp., let's have a look at the amount of those potential fines in some context:

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The total from the chart above is $87.53 billion. That seems like a lot of money until you compare it with the amount spent during the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). TARP had outflows of $611 billion and inflows of $642 billion according to ProPublica.

That should provide some context for the amount paid by the banks so far....

To contact the author on this story:
Barry L Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.net