Bankers Behaving Badly

Not following the Barclay’s LIBOR scandal very closely, it came as something of a surprise to learn of the brazenness in some of the emails as recounted in this Bloomberg commentary today. 

Here’s an e-mail about the three- month rate from a senior Barclays trader in New York to the London banker who submitted the rates: “Hi Guys, We got a big position in 3m libor for the next 3 days. Can we please keep the lib or fixing at 5.39 for the next few days. It would really help. We do not want it to fix any higher than that. Tks a lot.”

Bankers submitting rates responded to such requests as if they were routine: “For you, anything,” and “done … for you big boy,” according to the e-mails. Not that the efforts went unappreciated: “Dude. I owe you big time!” one trader wrote to a Libor submitter. “Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle of Bollinger.”

Barclays traders also coordinated with counterparts from other banks. In an instant message, one Barclays trader wrote to a trader at another bank: “If you know how to keep a secret I’ll bring you in on it, we’re going to push the cash downwards. … I know my treasury’s firepower … please keep it to yourself otherwise it won’t work.”

The Libor system, overseen by the British Bankers Association, operates much the way it did in the 1980s. Even after the news media uncovered evidence of manipulation in 2008, the bank lobby did little to reduce conflicts or improve the veracity of its numbers. The best solution, as Bloomberg View has advocated, is to end Libor and create a benchmark using data from actual loans, rather than relying on banks to tell the truth about their borrowing costs.

The real tragedy of the scandal is the apparent lack of ethics or self-restraint among the people involved. Following billions of dollars of trading losses at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s out-of-control London unit, the latest installment of big-bank follies offers yet more proof that the industry shouldn’t be trusted to regulate itself.

Clearly, this is another one of those times when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry about what the global financial system has evolved into.


2 Responses to Bankers Behaving Badly

  1. Mike Littisore July 3, 2012 at 10:09 AM #

    Taibbe’s exposé in the Rolling Stone reveals the same shenanigans.

    This is how the homes in the Hamptons were built. By stealing wantonly and without remorse.

    • Tim July 3, 2012 at 6:09 PM #

      Yeah. He’s done a good job covering this. I wonder if there will ever be major bank reforms and, ten years from now, he’ll be looked back upon as being one of the major reasons why, starting with his Goldman Sachs pieces.

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