Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Put Car on Trial for Barclays' Hit-and-Run

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Put Car on Trial for Barclays' Hit-and-Run

Article excerpt

Byline: city comment Simon English

UNDER fire from pesky MPs back in January 2011, Barclays' then chief executive Bob Diamond the second best named banker ever, after his superbly monickered colleague Rich Ricci said the time for remorse was over.

He was tired of bankers being slapped about for the financial crash of 2008. It was ages ago, fellas, he suggested. Get over it.

"There have been apologies and remorse from bankers. What we need is a dose of confidence; we need to think about what's best for the economy of the UK," said Diamond, dubbed internally the Bobtimist, for his certainty that things would turn out fine. They always did for him.

Diamond Bob sounded preposterous then, a walking, breathing example of a banker who failed to get it, who completely misjudged rightful public anger at the excesses of an industry that had visited misery on the rest of us.

If he said the same thing now, he might have a reasonable point. The Serious Fraud Office's case against Barclays relating to its 2008 emergency fundraising begins to look like a fight from another age.

On Monday the SFO upped the ante, bringing a charge against Barclays Bank, the group operating company. It had already charged Barclays plc, the holding company, as well as four executives, with conspiracy to commit fraud and unlawful financial assistance. But the move is significant since it increases the risk that Barclays Bank loses its banking licence, in effect putting it out of business.

For new readers: in 2008, Barclays took a PS12 billion loan from Qatar. That allowed it to avoid a UK government bailout, unlike Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds/HBOS.

As part of that deal, Barclays lent PS2.3 billion to Qatar Holdings, which the SFO claims was inducement to cough up the loan plainly against the law, if true.

For the sake of an argument, let's assume that everything the SFO says is right. Here's what I think: so what. Forget about it.

Perhaps it is true that the real motivation of the executives involved was to keep paying themselves huge bonuses rather than to save the taxpayer the cost of another bank bailout. …

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