Diamond accused of misleading inquiry into rates scandal
BRITISH MPs yesterday accused former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond of misleading a parliamentary inquiry into an interest rate-fixing scandal that has forced him to resign and give up bonuses worth up to £20m (€25.3m).
The affair became a major political issue in Britain this month, after authorities fined Barclays more than $450m (€367.2m) for its part in manipulating a crucial interbank interest rate. Mr Diamond resigned on July 3.
Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays when its traders fiddled the rate, appeared before a hostile parliamentary panel as part of its investigation into the row which has caused widespread public anger in Britain.
In two-and-a-half hours of gripping testimony, he acknowledged the central bank chief had played a key role in pushing Mr Diamond out of his job, and described the personal drama behind the scandal.
"I'm not happy to be where I am, as you can imagine," Mr Agius told the panel in a quiet voice. "It's very difficult as you go back to say what you would have done differently."
Mr Agius was the first Barclays executive to quit when the scandal erupted but that was not enough to protect the hard-charging Mr Diamond, who was forced out of the 300-year-old bank a day later.
Mr Agius, a Cambridge and Harvard educated pillar of the banking establishment, has agreed to stay on as executive chairman to find a successor to Mr Diamond, who testified in parliament last week.
The panel pressed Mr Agius repeatedly on what it saw as inconsistencies between Mr Diamond's evidence last week and the contents of a letter from the financial watchdog to the bank, which was released at the start yesterday's hearing.
"It will look to us, and frankly it will look to everybody listening, like another example of a complete lack of candour to parliament by the chief executive of Barclays," said committee chairman Andrew Tyrie.
In a tense exchange, John Mann, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour party, said: "He has calculatedly and deliberately misled this parliamentary committee. . . Mr Diamond has been misleading this committee, hasn't he?"
Mr Agius replied: "I can't speak for his testimony."
Mr Diamond's pay-off has been the subject of intense speculation. He took home £17m last year alone and has earned at least £120m since he joined the board in 2005, according to Manifest, a corporate governance group.
In a separate statement, Barclays quoted Mr Diamond as saying he hoped his decision would help the bank move on. (Reuters)