City workers arrive at The Royal Bank of Scotland Headquarters in London
City workers arrive at The Royal Bank of Scotland Headquarters in London - 
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Bill Radke: Four top British bankers are being hauled before a parliamentary committee this morning for a public roasting. The banks are the two biggest casualties of the U.K.'s financial crisis, Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS. Stephen Beard has more on the hearing from London.

Stephen Beard: One of the bankers was white-faced and spoke with a quivering voice. The other three squirmed in their seats. The men were questioned about their role in the financial crisis. The banks they ran lost billions, and are now propped up by the state.

The committee will report on the lessons to be learned. But, says economist Andrew Hilton, the real purpose is ritual humiliation:

Andrew Hilton: There is something to be said for the theatrical aspect of all this. It isn't a bad thing to personalize the crisis and to get the guys who were at the top of these institutions. It's equivalent to putting them in the stocks and throwing eggs at them.

At least the four men were treated more gently than their forbears. During a major financial crisis in the 18th century, parliament resolved that bankers should be tied up in sacks full of snakes and thrown into the Thames.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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