Leading article: Shame on you, Barclays bank

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What a wheeze, Barclays' lawyers must have thought when they came up with two entirely legal schemes to save £500m in tax.

The bank has long been adept at such activities. With 300 subsidiaries located in tax havens, it gave out 30 times more in bonuses in 2009 than it paid in British corporation tax.

And yet that was the very year that chief executive Bob Diamond not only signed a government code of conduct, but proclaimed that "rebuilding trust requires banks to be better citizens" by generating tax for the public purse.

Fine words. Embarrassing, then, that the authorities have now found one of Barclays' avoidance schemes in breach of the code of conduct, while another contravenes the spirit of the law.

Banks' inability to distinguish between legal and moral responsibilities was at the root of the financial crisis. How little, apparently, has changed.

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