Simon English: An apology to John Terry - actually, you're nothing like as bad as Barclays


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The Independent Online

Outlook By writing a little while ago that Barclays was the John Terry of banks, I was clearly being inflammatory.

Subsequent events show that I do owe an apology. To John Terry. Mr Terry's transgressions are of comparable insignificance to a bank that seemingly can't see a market without plotting a way to manipulate it.

A hint of racism? (hey, stuff happens), an alleged affair with the girlfriend of your best mate? (frankly, who hasn't), parking in the spot reserved for the disabled? (look, he's a famous footballer, other rules apply).

Barclays has not yet been caught up in a racism scandal but it is tempting to assume that this is a matter of time only.

The latest in a string of scandals sees it accused of an Enron-esque attempt to rig US energy markets, something its traders supposedly did several years after the Houston energy company was caught and strung up.

Some banks have managed to skirt most recent financial scandals, others are caught up in one or two.

Barclays is everywhere. If there are disasters, it is at the centre of them. No corner of the globe can escape its dreadful reach.

It mis-sold interest-rate protection deals to small businesses, say watchdogs.

It has set aside billions to cover claims for mis-selling payment protection insurance.

It was fined a then record £290m for fixing interest rates.

Two years ago it paid £190m to settle charges of illegal dealing with Iran, Libya, Burma and others.

And the tax laws? Well, like John Terry and disabled parking spaces, normal standards of behaviour are, erm, negotiable.

The thing is, even John Terry recently gave up the protestations of innocence and decided not to appeal the ban from the FA for racist abuse.

Barclays is still in denial.

The language and approach used by its traders as they conspired to mess with California's electricity markets suggest they are the sort of folk the Chelsea defender wouldn't have in the house.

Until it understands that it is fundamentally a bad company in need of complete reform, it can never be redeemed.

For John Terry, there is still hope. Barclays may need to grasp the obvious point that its troubles are not in its stars, but in itself.