Thursday, June 28, 2012

Facing 'policy of systemic dishonesty', Barclays tries sacrificial lamb defense

As reported by the Telegraph, in response to the Libor scandal and what appears to be a 'policy of systemic dishonesty', Barclays is blaming a few rogue individuals operating on their own behalf.

This response clearly misses the gravity of what has occurred.

What has occurred and Barclays has admitted to is that Barclays lied when it submitted interest rates to be used in calculating the Libor benchmark interest rates and Barclays intended to profit from these lies.

The most valuable commodity that a bank has to offer is trust.

Barclays has just admitted that it cannot be trusted.

While firing a few sacrificial lambs might save Bob Diamond's job for a few hours, at the end of the day, it does nothing to provide the market with a reason to trust Barclays.

Remember, Barclays needs the market to trust it, the market does not need Barclays.

Given that Barclays needs to earn back the market's trust, Barclays needs to take a step that will in fact signal to the market that it can be trusted now and going into the future.

The only step Barclays can take that does this is to voluntarily begin providing ultra transparency and disclosing on an on-going basis its asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.

Any other step is just confirmation that Barclays is not to be trusted and is trying to preserve its 'policy of systemic dishonesty'.

The growing pressure on the bank and its board led to Mr Diamond writing an open letter to the Treasury Select Committee last night explaining the action the bank was now taking. 
"We are now completing a review of employee conduct for all those involved," the letter stated. "That process is rigorous and all appropriate options will be pursued for those who have a case to answer, ranging from the clawback or withholding of remuneration to being asked to leave the bank." 
Mr Diamond also said that the traders involved in the Libor scandal were "operating purely for their own benefit" and insisted that "inappropriate conduct was limited to a small number of people relative to the size of Barclays trading operations".....
Emergency talks have been held at the bank over how to deal with the crisis that has enveloped Barclays following its admission that it attempted to manipulate the Libor borrowing rate for several years. Investors last night were reported to be demanding a meeting with the bank's senior independent director, Sir Michael Rake. 
Martin Taylor, a former chief executive of the bank, described the findings against Barclays as showing a "policy of systematic dishonesty". 
"It's hard to believe that a policy which seems so systematic was not known to people at or near the top of the bank," added Mr Taylor.... 
However, pressure is growing for a criminal investigation of the bank's actions. George Osborne, in an emergency statement to Parliament, said the Serious Fraud Office was now considering taking further action. 
The move was backed by the Association of Corporate Treasurers, the representative body for the finance directors of many of Britain's largest companies, which said the authorities work was "unfinished".
It is precisely to win back the trust of these corporate treasurers that Barclays need to immediately take the step of voluntarily providing ultra transparency.

In his column, Damian Reece effectively calls for banks providing ultra transparency as he says that banks need to 'find a clear lasting solution to how they inculcate their organizations with the right priorities'.

The only way to do this is adopt ultra transparency.  The sunlight brought in by ultra transparency acts as a disinfectant on the wrong priorities.

Banks are becoming tinged with same anti-social status that cigarette makers rapidly acquired as links between smoking and cancer (and their alleged cover up) came to the fore. 
The banks risk large, industry-wide lawsuits, which will have to be dealt with. 
But they need to renew their permission to trade too with the customers they were meant to be serving. It's a question of legitimacy. To restore the trust necessary to win that back, banks will have to change their behaviour.
Tobacco companies have had new behaviour forced upon them – a ban on advertising and smoking in public places for instance. 
Banks risk this in the form of yet more red tape, which would be counterproductive to the economy as a whole. But they are now isolated and have few if any advocates – beyond this newspaper. 
The reason this column still defends banks, yes even now, is because banking, unlike smoking, fulfils a social use and is central to wider wealth creation. But banks have forgotten their very real responsibilities to society (customers) in favour of owing responsibilities first to themselves and second to shareholders. 
Banks' response to this latest scandal should be to find a clear and lasting solution to how they inculcate their organisations with the right priorities. That would be of more use than swapping one banker for another in the boardroom – and certainly of greater urgency for the good of banking and the wider economy.

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