First it was Barclays that became the focus of the LIBOR fixing scandal, then the net spread wider to encompass up to another twenty or so banks. Now the Bank of England finds it has questions to answer.
It seems that the Deputy governor of the Bank of England personally spoke with the Barclays chief executive, Bob Diamond, after which “…Barclays staff came to believe the Bank of England wanted them to falsify this data” says the Telegraph.
The reason for this would be that it is not only the individual banks that would want to see a low LIBOR, the government from the top down and the BoE would like to have low interbank rates to ‘prove’ that the economy was not falling apart, that money was still flowing and so the recovery must be on its way.
Of course the BoE will claim that this could only have come about because of a misunderstanding by all concerned. You know, a sort of Thomas Ã Becket “Who will rid me of this troublesome high LIBOR rate” moment.
The manipulation itself would of course have been the easiest thing to do as each of the selected banks submits their own figures to the British Bankers’ Association to be averaged out and then issued at 11am daily. So, as there is no oversight then there are no questions to be asked or to be answered.
And in the middle the traders who were reporting would know how it was being manipulated and could use the data to their own and others’ advantage if they so chose.
This public backlash to this disreputable behaviour has now claimed its first scalp with reports that the Chairman of Barclays is to step down saying "Last week's events – evidencing as they do unacceptable standards of behaviour within the bank – have dealt a devastating blow to Barclays reputation. As Chairman, I am the ultimate guardian of the bank's reputation. Accordingly, the buck stops with me and I must acknowledge responsibility by standing aside." There are those that now fervently hope that this resignation will defuse the bomb and then back to business as usual. But they may find that this affair, after the economic collapse and the PPI and derivative contract mis-sellings, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, which has sparked a chain of investigations that will not stop until the culprits are dealt with.
But before we all start oiling the wheel bearings of the tumbrels and the runners of the guillotine let’s look at this another way shall we?
What if the public had absolutely no idea how bad the situation was? What if the economy was about to sink? What if money was about to flee the country leaving most people in the UK with no wages, no food, empty ATMs and nothing on the supermarket shelves? What if manipulating LIBOR (amongst a raft of other, yet to be discovered, operations) was part of the mechanisms used by the top politicians and bankers that kept the UK’s head above water? Would that not make them some sort of heroes?
What if the rates had not been ‘tweaked’ and the country had failed? Would those same bankers and politicians then be castigated for not taking those sorts of actions?
But of course no-one could ever admit that the government or the BoE would ever sanction such behaviour as that would just legitimise it and then a worldwide free for all would ensue (probably did anyway). There are, in all probability, events in the murky world of espionage that governments are very happy about but would never ever admit to any collusion and secret banking operations used to maintain a nation would then fall into the same category.
Many would say that as long as we keep some sort of workable system going then we should do what we need to do. But just as many would say that this is the time to review the whole rotten system and change it root and branch.
So now, when looking at those that get uncovered by any subsequent investigation, they will either fall because they deserve it, or because their country needs them to fall on their swords for the common good (saving the government). Looks like they’re furgled either way. Can’t wait for the autobiographies.