Barclays Bank has been given a record fine of £290m for lying and for manipulating interest rates on a massive scale (Barclays fined £290m as bid to manipulate rates exposed, 28 June). Barclays – in concert with other banks – rigged the Libor and Euribor rates. This sounds just technical. It isn’t. The Libor rate is the average rate at which UK banks lend to each other. It is also the rate used as a benchmark for everything from the interest due for late payment on many contracts to the interest rate on many mortgages – real payments by millions of real people. These rates also serve as benchmarks for much of the trade in financial “derivatives”: obscure instruments created by financiers whose total value is hundreds of trillions of pounds, an unbelievable amount. The money to be made by fraudulently manipulating this market simply beggars belief.
Other major banks in the UK, US and Europe are under investigation for similar allegations, including Lloyds and RBS – both recently rescued from collapse by the taxpayer. It is clear that finance capital continues to act purely to make huge profits, legally or illegally. The banking system is not a support to the real economy but a criminal conspiracy against it. Instead of propping up the unaccountable private banking system at the expense of ordinary people, we must replace it with a publicly owned, publicly run, publicly accountable national bank.
• In 2008 HSBC was a major contributor to the trillion-dollar, sub-prime calamity that brought the US and European economies to their knees. Now we learn that Barclays and other British financial engineers have been cheating the world by manipulating Libor.
The light-touch (meaning useless) regulation demanded by Boris Johnson and the City-loving Tories once again will destroy the lives of ordinary people, while Bob Diamond, like Fred the Shred before him, will escape to spend his millions without shame. Investment banking greed has once again been exposed and the need for that effective independent oversight of capitalism, seen as necessary even by Adam Smith, is more urgent than ever.
Rothesay, Isle of Bute
• Bob Diamond’s got breathtaking nerve to say that “some people acted in a manner not consistent with our culture and values”. But of course that’s exactly what they did do. He knows it, the government knows it and, increasingly in the last few years, the British people know it too. You’ve only got to visit any City watering-hole and overhear the conversation of these gangs of braying, sharply dressed kids to grasp just how armour-plated their sense of entitlement is, and how totally absent is their sense of contrition for the major contribution they’ve made to screwing half the nations of the world. While many people are losing their jobs, their homes and their dreams for the future, the Bolly keeps flowing for this teeny minority of amoral brigands.
It baffles me as to why there aren’t massive popular demonstrations in our financial centres. Is it that most of us just now feel so powerless under the thumb of financial, corporate and political elites that, like the Occupy protesters outside St Paul’s, we’ve metaphorically folded our tents and stolen away into an ever-darkening night?
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
• So it seems that Barclays was not just participating in casino banking – it was operating the casino as well and fixing the odds in its favour. In any other enterprise this would be regarded as a criminal act and no doubt dealt with accordingly. Do banks really need to pay extreme remuneration packages to attract the best top talent if their stock reply is that they did not know what was going on in their organisation? Light-touch regulation? More like light-fingered, I would suggest.
• Does the Institute of Bankers have a code of ethics in its constitution? If so, how many have now been dismissed for breaching it? And if there is no code, when will it be introduced?
Dr Geoffrey Price