Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell
Up to now in the LIBOR affair, the witness statements before the parliamentary select committee have essentially seen everyone lying to protect their own interests. The inevitable result is a sort of cacophony, compounded by strategy changes half-way through, which was particularly the case for Bob Diamond, former Chief Executive of Barclays, who one day sought to bring down with him Paul Tucker, Vice-Governor of the Bank of England, only to attempt the following day to absolve him of any responsibility, with the catastrophic result you can easily imagine.
As for the officials, regulators and managers of the Bank of England, the performance was not much more convincing: “saving one’s ass” as one says in Shakespeare’s language, saving one’s skin (“sauver sa peau”), as one says more politely in Molière’s language.
Jerry Del Missier, Chief Operating Officer, N° 3 at Barclays until only a few days ago, chose a completely different strategy: honesty. It is difficult to say whether it was 100% sincere, but whatever it was, it was close to 90%, and probably more than that. And this strategy is, of course, far more effective due to the not entirely surprising reason that while there may be a thousand different ways of lying, there is only one way of telling the truth – which prevents one from getting too muddled up.
Obviously, the collateral damage is tremendous since in his candour, del Missier dragged absolutely everybody into it – not just the liars of recent days but also some new protagonists whose names he freely quoted, despite them having not been mentioned up to now
When he was asked, ‘if as you maintain, the orders coming from on high were encouraging you to manipulate the rates downwards, were there no alarm bells ringing at the thought that it was illegal?’, he responded ingratiatingly, ‘well…no, because effectively it was the only reasonable thing to do to save the system”.
Why have the others not adopted this approach, and consequently sacrificed tens of millions of Pounds Sterling in salaries and bonuses? Because the Golden Calf once said to the crowds kneeling before it, “Finance regulates itself, and the promised earthly paradise will only come to pass when there are no regulators or governments!”; and these tens of lost millions represent little if they are the price to pay for ensuring that their children and their childrens’ children can continue repeating the words of the Golden Calf for centuries to come.
Jerry del Missier, former C.O.O. of Barclays
Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, Paul Tucker, Vice-Governor of the Bank of England, Adair Turner, President of the Financial Services Authority, the British regulatory authority.