BANK traders who rigged the key Libor lending rate in one of Britain’s biggest banking scandals were branded by Britain’s outgoing financial regulator yesterday as acting like they were playing “a computer game”.
Lord Turner, who steps down as chairman of the Financial Services Authority in April, talked of “macho” and “testosterone-driven” trading room environments divorcing dealers from the wider impact on society of their actions.
Turner told the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards that the trader mindset at times was “this is just a computer game. In a computer game I can do anything. This is just a screen, why can’t I cheat?”
The FSA head added: “It’s easy for anyone involved to say anything I can do to make a profit is valuable.”
It came as Martin Wheatley, chief executive designate of the new Financial Conduct Authority, spoke of the “absolute” value of whistle-blowers in the sector to bring abuses to light.
He said the FSA received between 3,000 and 4,000 whistle-blowing alerts a year “of which about 12 per cent provide actionable intelligence. It’s a core part of our business”.
However, Wheatley said he was “unconvinced” that following the US practice of providing financial incentives for whistle-blowers would yield a more effective regulatory structure.
Barclays is expected to reveal next week that up to 600 of its staff are paid more than £1 million when it publishes its annual report next week. Such a move would be seen as putting pressure on other banks, like Royal Bank of Scotland that reports results today, to do the same.
Meanwhile, the Co-operative Bank faces a £1bn capital deficit that could threaten its deal to buy 632 Lloyds Banking Group branches.
The Co-op is said to be weighing up the potential sale of its general insurance business to address this deficit. Mutually owned groups like the Co-op cannot issue equity to bolster their balance sheets.
It is thought the Co-op might also consider selling its pharmacies business to raise capital.