Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Barclays imbroglio

Libor, Not Labor: Everyone was affected

What is this benchmark rate, the London interbank offered rate (Libor)? The Libor is supposed to be based on the average rate at which large banks can borrow money overnight. It’s not based on actual transactions, and that leaves room for mischief.

Manipulating the Libor is a big deal because it affects the cost of money for almost everyone. The Libor is used to set rates on mortgages, credit cards and all manner of loans, personal and commercial. The amount of money affected by the phony rates is at least $500 trillion, British regulators have estimated.

 published in the New York Times this July 7 under “The British, at Least, Are Getting Tough”:

“THE unfolding story of how Barclays — and, in all likelihood, other big banks — rigged interest rates is full of telling tidbits about the way Wall Street works. It also represents yet another teachable moment.

By now the world knows that Barclays manipulated the most widely used benchmark rate, the London interbank offered rate.  But Barclays is just one member of the cozy club that sets the Libor. And mischief there was, according to e-mails and other documents that Barclays has turned over to regulators in the United States and Britain.

The upshot: traders colluded by posting rates that either helped their bets in the markets or their bank’s perceived financial strength during the harrowing days of 2008.

Barclays is not the only bank under investigation for rigging the Libor. It was simply the first to own up to the behavior and settle with regulators, paying $450 million. Other banks will almost certainly follow, and the documents bound to bubble up in those cases will surely prove fascinating.

One of the most revealing exchanges in the Barclays documents came when a bank official tried to describe why Barclays’s improper postings were not as problematic as those of other banks. “We’re clean but we’re dirty-clean, rather than clean-clean,” an executive said in a phone conversation. Talk about defining deviancy down.

“Dirty clean” versus “clean clean” pretty much sums up Wall Street’s view of cheating. If everybody does it, nobody should be held accountable if caught. Alas, many United States regulators and prosecutors seem to have bought into this argument.

British authorities have not bought on the argument that “dirty clean” is an acceptable basis to be absolved of outright cheating.

Last week’s defenestrations of Marcus Agius (Barclays chairman); Robert E. Diamond Jr.,(chief executive); and Jerry del Missier, (chief operating officer), apparently occurred at the behest of the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority, the nation’s top securities regulator.

(Mr. del Missier have lost his post as chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the big Wall Street lobbying group. His name vanished last week from the list of board members on the group’s Web site.)

MR. DIAMOND seemed shocked to be pushed out. An American by birth, he probably thought he’d be subject to American rules of engagement when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing at his bank.

You know how it works on this side of the Atlantic (USA): faced with a scandal, most chief executives jettison low-level employees, maybe give up a bonus or two — and then ride out the storm. Regulators, if they act, just extract fines from the shareholders.

British officials are taking a different approach with this scandal.

George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a statement on June 28: “It is clear that what happened in Barclays and potentially other banks was completely unacceptable, was symptomatic of a financial system that elevated greed above all other concerns and brought our economy to its knees. Punish wrongdoing. Right the wrong of the age of irresponsibility.”

Mr. Osborne voiced the question that so many have asked recently in the United States: “Fraud is a crime in ordinary business — why shouldn’t it be so in banking?”

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the Libor scandal is how dangerous it is to rely on interested parties to set interest rates or prices of financial instruments, rather than on actual transactions conducted by investors.

The Libor has been set in the current and vulnerable manner since the late 1960s. Maybe it has never been rigged before, but who knows?

It is far better to have the transparent and verifiable record of prices created by a tape of electronic trading. Such records are standard pricing mechanisms for many securities. But not all.

Prices of derivatives, especially credit default swaps that trade one-to-one, can still be based on one dealer’s say-so. That’s why a rule proposed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that would require pre-trade price transparency in the swaps market is so important.

But it is also why Wall Street is pushing back, especially on the commission’s proposal that swap execution facilities provide market participants, before they buy or sell, with easily accessible prices on “a centralized electronic screen.”

The commission’s rule would eliminate the one-to-one dealings by telephone that are so lucrative to traders and so expensive to investors.

A bill intended to gut the commission’s proposed rule and to maintain dealers’ profits in derivatives failed to go anywhere after being passed last year by two committees in the House of Representatives — Financial Services and Agriculture. That was a good thing.

But there are rumblings in Washington that this bill has resurfaced and that it may be quietly attached to a House Agriculture Committee appropriations bill scheduled for a vote this month. The bill, if passed,

1. would bar the requirement for a centralized pricing platform to shed light on the enormous swaps market.

2. would prevent regulators from requiring that a number of participants provide price quotations to customers, a way to ensure fairness.

It’s hard to believe, in the wake of the Libor mess, that Wall Street and its supporters in Congress would continue to battle against price transparency in any market. Then again, that’s precisely what they did after the credit crisis.

With each new financial imbroglio, the gulf widens between Main Street’s opinion of Wall Street and the industry’s view of itself.

When Mr. del Missier took over as chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association last November, he said: “We will continue to work on maintaining and burnishing the level of confidence investors have in our markets, in our own financial institutions, and in the general economic outlook for the future.”

Given the Libor scandal, let’s just say good luck with that.

 
Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain
 
The full-scale of the scandal is still unknown. What has been vented out is breathtaking: “Several” unnamed major banks were involved, and the rigging of the LIBOR interest rate, the rate on which many of the world’s interest rates are based, affected the value of literally hundreds of trillions of dollars in investments. Barclays alone has admitted to committing this fraud “hundreds” of times.
 
Alexander COCKBURN published in CounterPunch Diary on July 6 under “Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain’s History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?” (with slight editing):

“The Barclay’s imbroglio is being described as “the greatest financial scandal in the history of Britain”. I have a question to ask.

Where are those tents outside St Paul’s? Or ones in solidarity this side of the Atlantic? Where are the vibrant reminders that – as has happened in the Barclays case – there is most definitely one law for the 1% (none, in fact) and another for the 99 %?

It was very hard not to be swept away by the Occupy movement which established itself in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September and soon spread to Oakland, Chicago, London and Madrid. And indeed most people didn’t resist its allure.
 
Leninists threw aside their Marxist primers on party organisation and drained the full anarchist cocktail.

The Occupiers , with their “people’s mic”,  were always a little hard to understand. And as with all movements involving consensus, everything took a very long time.
 


Was there perhaps a leader, a small leadership group, sequestered somewhere among the tents and clutter? It was impossible to say, and at that point it is somewhat disloyal to pose the question.

Cynicism about Occupy was not a popular commodity.
 
But new movements always need a measure of cynicism dumped on them. Questions of organization were obliterated by the strength of the basic message – we are 99%, they are 1%. It was probably the most successful slogan since ‘peace, land, bread’.

The Occupy Wall Street assembly in Zuccotti Park developed its own cultural mores, drumming included. Like many onlookers, I asked myself, Where the hell’s the plan?

But I held my tongue. I had no particular better idea and for a CounterPuncher of mature years to start laying down the program seemed cocky. But, deep down, I felt that Occupy, with all its fancy talk, all its endless speechifying, was riding for a fall.

Before the fall came, there were heroic actions, people battered senseless by the police. These were brave people trying to hold their ground.

There were other features that I think quite a large number of people found annoying: the cult of the internet, the tweeting and so forth, and I definitely didn’t like the enormous arrogance which prompted the Occupiers to claim that they were indeed the most important radical surge in living memory.

Where was the knowledge of and the respect for the past?  We had the non-violent resistors of the Forties organising against the war with enormous courage.

The Fifties saw leftists took McCarthyism full on the chin. With the Sixties we were making efforts at revolutionary organisation and resistance.
 
Yet when one raised this history with someone from Occupy, I encountered total indifference.

There also seemed to be a serious level of political naivety about the shape of the society they were seeking to change. They definitely thought that it could be reshaped – the notion that the entire system was unfixable did not get much of a hearing.
 


After a while, it seemed as though, in Tom Naylor’s question in this site: “Is it possible that the real purpose of Occupy Wall Street has little to do with either the 99% or the one per cent, but rather everything to do with keeping the political left in America decentralised, widely dispersed, very busy, and completely impotent to deal with the collapse of the American empire…

“Occupiers are all occupied doing exactly what their handlers would have them be doing, namely, being fully occupied. In summary, Occupy Wall Street represents a huge distraction.”

Then the rains of winter came. Zuccotti Park came under repeated assault, the tents were cleared from Zucotti Park and from St Paul’s Cathedral and by early this year it was all over.

People have written complicated pieces trying to prove it’s not over, but if ever I saw a dead movement, it is surely Occupy. (Read the link in note)

Has the Occupy movement left anything worth remembering? Yes, maybe.  

With Bob Diamond squirming before British MPs, and politicians jostling to apportion blame for the Barclays scandal, memories of the 99% and the one per cent are surely at least warm in the coffin.

Everything leftists predicted came true, just as everything hard-eyed analysts predicted about the likely but unwelcome course of ecstatic populism in Tahrir Square also came true. 

I do think it’s incumbent on those veteran radicals who wrote hundreds of articles proclaiming a religious conversion to Occupyism,  to give a proper account of themselves, otherwise it will  happen all over again.” End of article

Ricken Patel of Avaaz.org posted:

Big banks have been caught in a massive scam to rig global interest rates, ripping off millions of people on their mortgages, student loans and more! We’d go to jail for this, but Barclays bank has only been fined, and just a fraction of their profits!

Outrage is mounting — this is our chance to finally turn the tide of the banks’ reign over our democracies.

The EU finance regulator, Michel Barnier is standing up to the powerful bank lobby and championing reform that would put bankers behind bars for fraud like this. If the EU goes first, accountability could quickly spread across the globe.

The banks are lobbying hard against accountability, and we need a massive surge of people power to drive these reforms through.

If we can get 1 million people to stand with Barnier in the next 3 days, it will give him momentum to face down the banking lobby and push governments to bring reform.

For too long, our governments have been cowed by powerful banks who threatened to move elsewhere if challenged. For too long, banks have manipulated our market economies, tilting the playing field in their favour, and engaging in reckless risk-taking, secure in the knowledge that they could force governments to hand them our taxpayer money when they got into trouble.

The system is rigged, and that’s a crime. It’s time to put the criminals behind bars for it.
There may never have been a time in modern history when the big banks didn’t have excessive and extraordinary power that they regularly abused. But democracy is on the march — we’ve seen this march overcome tyrants across the world, and together, we’ll help end the reign of the banks as well.

Click below to sign, and our growing numbers will be represented by adding mock bankers to a jail right in front of the EU Parliament:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/bankers_behind_bars_f/?bFAfecb&v=15942

Note: You may read https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/where-are-the-tea-party-and-the-occupy-wall-street-movement-its-two-party-presidential-campaign-stupid/


adonis49

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