You’ve got to hand it to Britain’s banks. Their reputation was already in the gutter. But they’ve made us hate them even more this week with another series of scandals – and not a single chief executive has resigned.
The Barclays LIBOR rate fixing scandal prompted the most outrage, yet the bank’s amazingly over-rewarded boss Bob Diamond refused to resign. (Small wonder, given the king’s ransom he receives for running the company. Honour is no longer a currency that top bankers understand.)
Labour leader Ed Milliband quickly called for an inquiry into the scandal. We don’t need an inquiry – just fundamental action to drain the poison from the banking industry. This is an industry that has the dubious record of 25 years of misselling scandals (endowments, pension transfers, precipice bonds, PPI to name just four), not to mention the catastrophic mistakes that led to the credit crunch and the collapse of RBS, HBOS and others. It is shameful that Bank of England governor Mervyn King has just noticed this week that there’s something wrong with the culture of Britain’s banks.
One other point. Ed Milliband called for a ‘full inquiry’. No politician ever calls for a limited inquiry. Inquiry is one of those words that is rarely seen out on its own. Other examples include suburb (always ‘leafy’) and families (inevitably ‘hard-working’, especially the toddlers.)
UPDATE: it looks like Barclays chairman Marcus Agius will resign. Don’t cheer until it’s confirmed – and he says he won’t take a penny in ‘compensation’.
Suppressing LIBOR has reduced the borrowing costs for companies. This has made our companies more successful, improving the pension values for everyone. Further, this may have made meant that companies survived, giving jobs to people. At the time this happened the banking industry was on its knees, and the government had to intervene. Had LIBOR not been artificially lowered the economic repurcussions of a higher LIBOR and further banking collapses and government intervention could have led to economic suicide. Whilst Barclays lying is not right, it is probably not the worse of two evils.