We know that our Senators and Congressfolk use congressional hearings to grandstand, or to promote their ignorance into something that sounds like profundity. I had hopes for the British Parliament’s inquiry into the LIBOR scandal, based on watching MPs going at each other in the open sessions on C-SPAN. The British people are genuinely outraged by Barclays’ admission that it fraudulently fixed the interest rate charged to millions of customers and on billions if not trillions of financial instruments. My hopes were shared by The Guardian’s liveblogger, Andrew Sparrow, who wrote that today would be “… some kind of day of reckoning for banking as a whole.” After it was over, he repents;
I apologise. I was clearly talking nonsense. There wasn’t any kind of reckoning at all.
The MPs castigated Bob Diamond for presiding over a bank involved in multiple banking scandals. (See 16.16am)
But Diamond broadly refused to accept any blame, insisted that he acted properly as soon as the abuses were brought to his attention and claimed (particularly in his final answer) that Barclays was being unfairly stigmatised because it had actually been so much better than the other banks at ‘fessing up.
That castigating probably would sound more impressive with a British accent, but it had the same effect that Jeff Merkley had on Jamie Dimon: none at all.
Diamond threw out a red herring, a note he made of a conversation with a representative of the Bank of England that he claims encouraged others to make false submissions to the rate-setting agency, but he says he didn’t think that it authorized lying, and he has no idea why his underlings thought that, and he didn’t discuss the fact that the rate-fixing began long before that call. You can read the note here. The Bank of England denies it authorized lying, and the explanation of the issue makes sense; it’s here.
Diamond repeatedly insisted that he knew nothing about the evildoing, and acted promptly when he learned of it, last month. That led to this question from Jesse Norman:
Q: A Wall Street Journal article in 2008 actually quotes a Barclays banker. So how could [you] have not known this was going on?
Diamond says Barclays should be judged by what it did when it found out about the problem.
Norman should have looked at this article about the Wall Street Journal investigation; it would have helped formulate a follow-up question.
Labor, the opposition party, wants a judicial inquiry, one where real lawyers and investigators start by grilling the traders and then work their way up, leading to indictments. We’ll see if they do better than we do.
Our politicians in both major parties worship these liars and cheats, as long as the thieves cut them in on the money. Our candy-ass prosecutors waived even a meaningless misdemeanor charge against Barclays. Apparently those only kick in at the $3 billion level, not the $450 million for fixing a gigantic market that Barclays paid.
The DOJ can’t find the paper on which to write the word indictment, unless it’s a pot-smoker or a guy carrying water to an Occupy action. Prosecutors around the country quail at the prospect of putting bank criminals in the dock. But that’s not even a scandal; it’s just the way things are on this Independence Day. Thomas Jefferson would be so embarrassed by what we’ve become.