Monday, 16 July 2012


I mind a colleague far better versed in the ways of “The City” than me referring to Barclays as Sharclays. I also mind someone I worked with heading off to work there, in BarCap to be precise. What made this bod memorable was that he was well known for being an arse and generally useless; last I heard he was doing rather well thank you very much. So really, the libor scandal is all about one bank’s culture, that and a few rotten apples who have thankfully been resigned allowing the lessons to be learned following a root and branch review.

Except, it very bloody obviously isn’t. As the former Barclays Chief Operating Officer has just made perfectly clear – the Bank of England had a word with the former Barclays CEO who then had a word with the former Barclays COO, who then told the relevant people to game libor. End of *.

Now some context here would help; in 2007 and 2008 the slightest whisper about a bank prompted all sorts of speculation, panic and potential crises of confidence. In this atmosphere, a quiet, unrecorded word with terribly important executives made pragmatic, if not legal, sense; better a “cheeky” wee fix now than another part-nationalisation later.

Unfortunately, the US’s more robust approach to white collar crime appears to have got in the way. Hence, we have the spectacle of the Treasury Select committee huffing and puffing, the FSA and the Bank of England saying they knew something was not quite right over at Barclays and the BBC's strenuous efforts to very obviously skew, distort and disguise what happened.

Hence for Robert Peston, our very own voice of objective financial market reportage and reason, the former Barclay’s COO saying he simply did what he understood the Bank of England said they wanted is actually proof of “Barclays' 'culture of pushing the limits'. This in turn followed an earlier Peston post asking if the Bank of England boy involved was a “Victim of his own innocence?” an interesting question to ask of a fucking deputy governor of the Bank because it’s so very obviously, but distractingly stupid.

The real point is straightforward; the party line here is to manage, massage and manipulate the news in ways that avoid exposing the status quo and limit any investigation of what went on; the "narrative" here is that some blinking foreigner and a few dodgy cronies at a rogue institution, off their own bat mind, gamed an honourable British system. Saying this often and loudly enough should hopefully drown out all the British financial regulators phoning their American counterparts to say “would you please be a good chap and shut the fuck up.”

Why this all took place is understandable. Given it’s documented in emails, there’s little debate as to its substance either. What subsequent events say about the way things are reported in Britain, how they’re managed, like how the SFO only eventually decided to investigate a very obvious fraud, i.e. the way “the establishment” works is actually the real story.

* From memory Barclays distinguished between two phases of gaming the system. One, the earlier phase, was out and out bent . The above only refers to the second phase.

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