Tag Archives: Libor

Money money money

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me

If you have a car, you’ll have noticed your petrol costs have been going up. When you do your shopping, food costs are terrible these days. Everything’s more expensive, money just doesn’t seem to go as far as it did.

Ian Bell wrote on 30th June
:

So who still believes that the cost of petrol, food or credit, for nations or individuals, rises or falls because of the pure, dispassionate action of market forces? Speculative attacks, such as “aggressive tax avoidance”, are hardly in the spirit of the thing; the fiddling of interest rates is another malignity entirely. It strikes at the heart of capitalism. When prices cannot be trusted – for such is the effect – there is no free market.

In the case of Barclays, and perhaps 20 other household names trading on the public trust, that was the whole idea. The London interbank offered rate (Libor) and its European equivalent were supposed to act as guarantees that bankers’ claims matched reality, that they described accurately commerce between banks and, by extension, the wider world. For the sake of their bonuses and their bank, traders at Barclays decided to dispense with annoying, unhelpful reality. Time and again, for years, under the alleged instruction of “senior management”, they lied.

You don’t need to understand how Libor is constructed as a global benchmark, with highest and lowest figures discarded and averages compiled, to grasp what was done. Bankers were taken at their word. Instead of regarding this as a solemn responsibility, they took it as an opportunity, offered by suckers. The simple analogy is discovering, after a day at the races, that every nag was doped. Forget the casino economy: these characters were controlling the roulette wheel.

Do you remember the Occupy movement? I don’t know why I say “do you remember”: it’s not so long ago that they were camped out on the steps of St Pauls in London, the small area of the Square Mile that is owned by the Church, not Mammon: not so long since the tents disappeared from Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, where they were a daily reminder of the banks that own so many of the buildings around them. They were wild-eyed radical tent-dwelling hippies, who’d listen to them?

But they were right.

Ian Fraser, writing on 5th December 2011 in QFinance:

What disturbed me the most about the November 1 session was the regulators’ seeming nonchalance about criminality in the UK’s banking sector. At times, using the tortured and obfuscatory phraseology, the financial regulators almost seemed to want to pretend that criminality and fraud didn’t, or couldn’t exist in the domain they are supposed to police. This struck me as very strange.

When I wrote “Helicopter Money and Stephen Hester“, it was meant to be an account of what happened to the rich instigators and their victims – to describe the links between Paula Daly, who became homeless after the bank foreclosed on her business in September 2008, and Jeffrey Verschleiser, head of the sub-prime mortgage operations at Bear Stearns, who had just booked a 93-room luxury hotel for a family weekend.

Despite sub-prime mortgage operations having led to a wave of criminal repossessions across the US (including, quite literally, a special court system so that fraudulent and predatory loans could be resolved in the lenders’ favour and the houses attached to them sold again with clean paperwork) Jeffrey Verschleiser wasn’t worried he might get prosecuted any more than he had money worries. I noted this in passing, citing Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?, which opens with Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, and a former Senate investigator in a Washington bar in January 2011:

“Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,” he said. “That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.”

I put down my notebook. “Just that?”

“That’s right,” he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. “Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.”

A fortnight ago, Matt Taibbi wrote about the conclusion of the first criminal trial which has sent Wall Street staff to jail: Continue reading

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