Comment: Bob Diamond’s off the leash – will he now let rip?
CLEARLY, Bob Diamond got it wrong. It could be he thought, by ’fessing up to the libor scam early, he would be able to enjoy the benefits of coming clean and just waiting for worse to come out about other banks low-balling the rate-setting panels in the UK, US and Europe.
But Diamond’s sudden departure caused immediate speculation that he would now be free to let rip at politicians and, in particular, regulators, in front of the trenchant Andrew Tyrie today.
Yesterday, the sense of chop-licking anticipation was palpable. The Treasury select committee, having judged that the Wilson Room in Portcullis House will be jammed to the rafters, warned attendees to “come early”.
Being freed from the shackles of politesse, Diamond’s fans – current and former – are itching for him to take some bodies down with him.
Some question that should be asked – and may very well be answered – include: what actually did he discuss with Paul Tucker, then the executive director for markets and now a potential heir apparent at the beefed up Bank of England (BoE), in that phone call in the autumn of 2008?
Some have claimed as a result of this secret chat – a note of which has been handed to the select committee for today – that the Old Lady was quiescent in the fixing process. But this contentious claim has infuriated the Bank of England, and may be why some have suggested that it was Sir Mervyn King himself who turned a cocked eyebrow against Diamond’s continuation at the top of Barclays.
As chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest bank, Diamond would have had to hold his tongue. But now, as a free agent, the coast is clear.
There is much more to come out. Regulatory documents filed to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and its US equivalent show that whistleblowers were regularly alerting the BoE and the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) to the fact that contributor banks were fiddling the figures to work in their favour when the money markets froze. Diamond is set to testify that Barclays was submitting consistently higher rates than the others.
The BBA claims it then toughened its governance of the libor setting mechanism. But for Diamond, who might have thought he could stay in the job at the bank he professes to love, it is too late.
So who will replace Diamond? Just days ago, it was argued there was no-one else who had the strength of character to lead Barclays through the storm. But no-one should be irreplaceable. The new top dog will not be chief operating officer Jerry del Missier, whose resignation was accepted when it emerged that he was the man who gave the green light on lowering the bank’s libor submissions. Nor is it likely to be Benny Higgins, as some have suggested, who has been busily trying to develop a new banking platform for Tesco.
Instead, Anthony Jenkins, a “nice guy” banker and chief executive of Barclays’ retail bank, is the top insider tip. But does he have the brash mettle to lead the global behemoth?
Outside the bank is Bill Winters, the former London-based head of JP Morgan Chase who had been tipped last year to take over at UBS in the wake of its rogue trader scandal. And while for some the investment banker may be too much cut from the same cloth as Diamond, he made headlines last year after lambasting his fellow bankers as “greedy” and “inept”. At least he has the right idea.
A trip to Edinburgh is on for global buyer
SOME have always argued that, when it comes to paying big money for excellent companies, location shouldn’t matter. Except it does.
So congratulations are in order for that diamond-in-the-heather, Wood Mackenzie, whose shareholding staff will get an average of £250,000 each after its owner, Charterhouse, sold most of its stake to Hellman & Friedman.
H&F, with offices in London, New York and San Francisco, clearly thinks the former Edinburgh stockbroking firm is well worth £1.1 billion, having spent some £693m for a majority stake.
WoodMac may have been Scotland’s worse-kept secret, having regularly changed ownership, from bank to buy-out team to venture capitalists. But it’s clear its new majority owner thought it was worth coming to Edinburgh to invest.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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