Today must have been a tense day for Bob Diamond, but with difficult questions about the culture of banking responsibility coming thick and fast from a cross party group of MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, he managed to dodge booby traps for several hours, and didn’t really land Barclays in any hot water at all, to the disappointment of many industry-watchers. Obviously well briefed with the line ‘I love Barclays’, and ‘What went on was wrong, there’s no question of that,’ Diamond did not really offer up any juice.
Interestingly, Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the committee opened the questioning with a plea to Diamond to be candid given that he is no longer employed by Barclays and that he is able to speak with parliamentary privilege (and therefore indemnity). But it would seem Diamond has his eye on a job somewhere else when all of this has blown over, as he would not even land Paul Tucker in it over claims that the Bank of England had instructed Barclays to rig the Libor rate back in 2008 to help out with the economy.
It is a pretty convoluted and tangled story, and we reckon the ‘whodunnit’ element of the story is unlikely to go away any time soon. For the time being, Diamond insists that he and his management team did not know the rate fixing had been going on, and the corporation’s compliance department had not picked it up. The answer, he claims, is that 14 ‘rogue’ employees (hmmm…sounds familiar) were simply a bit naughty with the rules and have now been rooted out by the company’s ‘market leading’ investigation into the scandal.
Interestingly, Diamond may have tangled himself up slightly: on a question about his personal management style, he said he ‘preferred consensus’ in decision-making. That must be the kind of consensus that involves other people telling Bob he’s right, if his reputation is anything to go by. Besides, whether consensus or dictatorship, he ought to have known that Libor rate fixing was going on. Or so the MPs on the committee pointed out in no uncertain terms.
But, since this is just the beginning of an inquiry into the scandal (we all know how long Leveson is taking), it is probably not worth getting too excited about today’s events. Maybe some disgruntled former employees will spill the beans later on…if there are any to be spilt. And if Diamond is right, a bunch of other banks are in the same hot water as Barclays, anyway.
Still, Diamond said he felt ‘physically ill’ when he first found out about his traders engaging in naughty fraud-type fun and games, and he has just lost his job, poor bloke. Hasn’t lost his £20m severance package, though…