Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Barclays and UBS are charged with felony fraud.
International banks are to pay fines of several billions of dollars.
The banks have committed deliberate manipulation within foreign exchange markets and gained possession of billions of dollars owing to retirees, university endowments and municipalities.
The banks also face antitrust charges.
However, since the financial crisis federal regulators have avoided bringing criminal charges against banks and their executives, opting instead for either cash settlements and so-called deferred-prosecution agreements, in which charges are delayed on the basis of the banks' compliance with certain conditions.
In 2012, it became clear that major global banks, including UBS and Barclays, were systematically engaged in manipulating LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate), the benchmark global interest rate on the basis of which hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial contracts are valued.
In June of that year, Barclays was fined $200 million by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and $160 million by the United States Department of Justice. This was followed by UBS's agreement in December 2012 to pay regulators $1.5 billion in connection with the scandal and an agreement by Deutsche Bank in 2015 to pay $2.5 billion to regulators. Numerous other banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan, were fined by European authorities.
The fines levied by financial regulators remain a cost of doing business, and pale in comparison with the billions of dollars made by the major banks every year through criminal activities.
The emergence of scandal after scandal, including the selling of toxic mortgage-backed securities that caused the financial crisis, the forging of foreclosure documents, money laundering, and tax evasion by Wall Street testifies to the fact that the banks are, in fact, criminal outfits.
Since taking office shortly after the onset of the financial crisis, the Obama administration has sought not to hold the banks to account and prevent criminal wrongdoing, but rather to conceal their crimes.
In exchange for their services, top financial regulators are almost universally provided with high-paying positions in Wall Street after their stints with the government.