Barclays’ Diamond Blames Regulators

Robert Diamond, who quit this week as chief executive officer of Barclays Plc (BARC), sought to blame other banks for misleading markets about their Ordered to testify to British lawmakers after Barclays agreed to pay a record 290-million pound ($455 million) fine for rigging the London interbank offered rate, Diamond said yesterday he was “disappointed” regulators failed to act on repeated warnings from Barclays that competitors had low-balled their submissions. Legislators challenged him on why he took so long to uncover his own firm’s attempts to manipulate the rate.

“This isn’t just Barclays,” Diamond, 60, told lawmakers at a three-hour hearing of Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee. “Throughout 2007 and 2008, no institution of the 16 banks reporting three-month dollar Libor was at the higher end more consistently than Barclays. Barclays was getting questions about why it was always high and we were saying, ‘We are high because we were reporting at where we were borrowing money.’”

Diamond’s comments underscore concern that Libor, the benchmark for more than $360 trillion of global securities, has stopped being an accurate reflection of banks’ borrowing costs. Last week, regulators found Barclays had tried to manipulate the benchmark for profit and to mask its difficulty borrowing money during the credit crisis.

The scandal has already cost the jobs of Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius, 65, and Chief Operating Officer Jerry Del Missier, 50. At least 12 more banks, ranging from Citigroup Inc. (C) to UBS AG (UBSN), are still being probed by regulators. “I’m asking why people at Barclays noticed other people doing this, but were unable for whatever reason to recognize what was going on internally,” Scottish National Party lawmaker Stewart Hosie said. There is “a huge amount of unhappiness both in Parliament and in the general public.”

Libor is calculated by a survey of banks’ daily estimates of how much it would cost them to borrow from one another for different time frames and in different currencies. Because submissions aren’t based on real trades, the potential exists for the benchmark to be manipulated by traders seeking to profit from where the rate is set.

Diamond apologized for the rigging, blaming a group of 14 traders out of 2,000, and said the bank had failed in taking so long to uncover their actions. He said he didn’t know about their activities until a week before regulators published their findings, including e-mails between Barclays traders, Bloomberg reported.

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