If I missed a scheduled payment to a bank, I would probably get hit with a late fee. Credit bureaus would receive a delinquency report. If I continued to miss the payment, debt collectors would harass me at all hours with phone calls. They might take me to court and get a judgment against me that enables them to garnish my wages or my tax refunds. If the debt was secured — i.e., backed by a piece of collateral — the creditor could initiate proceedings to take that collateral away from me. In the case of a mortgage, that means repossessing my house in a foreclosure action. They could take my car or strip me of all my other assets.
All of these consequences made the credit system work: Without them, people would be foolish to pay their debts. But if you’re a big bank, you can fail to make a $20 million payment for two years — something you would never tolerate from your own customers — and face absolutely no consequences. That’s just how our financial system rolls.