David Prosser: Let's put a stop to the kite-flying at Barclays
Thursday 31 March 2011
Outlook What is Barclays Bank up to? Eleven weeks ago yesterday, Bob Diamond, the bank's chief executive, told a public hearing of the Treasury Select Committee that he was "crystal clear" about one thing at least: Barclays headquarters would remain in the UK. Now, rumours are flying round the market that the bank has held discussions with US regulators about a move to New York – and Barclays isn't denying the story.
Banks talk to regulators all over the world about all manner of things all of the time, of course. But if Mr Diamond is so clear about Barclays' plans, those staff who have been talking to the Americans would have been better off spending their time making money for shareholders.
More cynically minded analysts will wonder if this episode is an attempt by Barclays to bounce the UK into treading even more carefully about the direction of banking regulation, especially with the Independent Banking Commission due to publish its preliminary report in less than a fortnight's time. Mr Diamond may even have adopted a tactic from the playbook of his predecessor, John Varley, who recently let it be known that the banks might walk away from the Project Merlin talks unless the commission's wilder instincts were reined in.
Barclays and HSBC, which also refuses to rule out a shift, should make their position clear. And we should call their bluff.
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