Former head of Barclays apologises for 'inexcusable' rate fixing
THE chastened former head of Barclays apologised for the "reprehensible" behaviour of his traders who fixed interest rates, but told British MPs yesterday his bank had been unfairly singled out after coming forward to admit wrongdoing.
Bob Diamond (60) quit this week after Barclays agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars in fines for manipulating the interest rates at the heart of the global financial system.
British politicians have seized on the case as a symbol of a culture of greed that has poisoned the entire financial industry. Newspapers have highlighted emails disclosed in the case which show traders congratulating each other for fiddling figures with promises of bottles of champagne.
Appearing thoughtful and humble before an often hostile parliamentary committee, Mr Diamond, who was one of the world's highest paid and most powerful financial executives, acknowledged "inexcusable" behaviour among his group's traders.
"When I read the emails from those traders, I got physically ill," Mr Diamond said. "That behaviour was reprehensible, it was wrong. I am sorry, I am disappointed and I am also angry."
He said those involved in rigging interest rates would be subject to criminal investigation and should be "dealt with harshly".
The wrongdoing at the 300-year-old bank was "not representative of the firm that I love so much", the American banker said. But he insisted that Barclays was being made a scapegoat because it had cooperated with the authorities to help unearth the misdeeds.
The decision by Britain's third-biggest bank to cooperate with regulators may have been designed to limit damage but it appeared to have backfired, hurting Barclays' reputation and costing Mr Diamond his job, banking analysts said.
The case has reopened a debate in Britain on whether big banks should be split into retail and investments units, while also raising questions about the morality of bankers' salaries and whether banks should be more closely regulated.
Barclays has acknowledged that its traders colluded with others to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, the rate that big banks say they borrow from each other which underpins trillions of dollars in global contracts. (Reuters)