James Moore: Diamond got a rough deal as Barclays took first blow in punishment for Libor

Was there just a hint of schadenfreude in the air at Barclays' HQ yesterday morning? After months of promises, someone else finally got it in the neck for attempting to fix Libor (and Euribor) interest rates. And how.

UBS is coughing up $1.5bn (£925m) to regulators on both sides of the pond. Its traders also played around with yen Libor (Yibor?), and they didn't just promise bottles of Bollinger for mucking about with the figures. The inducements came in cold hard cash, and lots of it. On one occasion $100,000. You could buy a crate of Bolly for that.

At least 45 people were involved, and it seems that what was going on wasn't exactly a secret. It was discussed in internal chatrooms, group emails and such like. And yet still compliance staff, who conducted five "audits", managed to miss it.

Barclays' misdeeds were carried out by a much smaller group of traders, and it copped a plea at an earlier stage of the process than UBS.

When its misdeeds were revealed, Barclays' rather despairing claim that it was doing the right thing by co-operating rather got lost in the firestorm which engulfed the bank. It doesn't excuse what its traders did, or the depressing culture that flourished there, but UBS does put what happened at Barclays, and how it responded, in context.

So let's conduct a thought experiment here: would Bob Diamond still be Barclays' chief executive if UBS, rather than Barclays, had faced the music first? There's good reason for thinking he would be.

There is no doubt that Barclays would have faced a richly deserved kicking had it gone second. But Barclays, a rarity in that it has a smart in-house communications team, would at least have been able to consider the reaction to the UBS fines and prepare a public relations plan on the back of them. This would likely have amounted to saying something like yes, we were awful, and we're really very sorry. But compared with that lot, we're not all that bad really.

Mr Diamond would have issued a mea culpa and promised to get tough with the bad boys. He would have appeared before the Treasury Select Committee and the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards and he would have said how sorry and shocked he was personally. He might even have given up a bonus or two. Then he would have toughed it out.

As it is, he's traded little England for New England and is licking his wounds thanks to what they're calling first-mover disadvantage.

Going first certainly hurt Mr Diamond, but Barclays as an institution? Not so much. What will emerge over the next five years or so is a more sober and conservative institution than anything Mr Diamond would have run. Shareholders will probably have to accept lower returns as the bank calls time on some of its activities and stops taking risks with the regulators. But while lower, the returns will be more sustainable, and long-term shareholders will have cause to be thankful for that. Ultimately, Barclays will benefit from the mangle through which it was forced. So will the British taxpayer, because regardless of the new capital buffers Barclays is being asked to hold, and the "living will" it has had to write, it is still a bank that is too big to fail.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform