Barclays bosses' bid for Libor trial anonymity fails

Diamond among staff named after attempt to keep identities secret during damages hearing thwarted by High Court

James Moore@JimMooreJourno
Thursday 24 January 2013 23:56

An attempt by current and former leading Barclays executives to keep their names out of the first British trial related to the alleged fixing of Libor interest rates was thwarted at the High Court.

Former chief executive Bob Diamond is the most high-profile of the 104 employees who could be called as witnesses in the court action and had sought anonymity. They also include Mr Diamond's one-time number two Jerry del Missier, current finance director Chris Lucas, another ex-boss, John Varley, and the man now in charge of Barclays' investment bank, Rich Ricci. None of these are implicated in any wrongdoing.

The group of 104 includes a "shortlist" of 24 current and former Barclays employees who were directly referred to in regulatory settlements following the scandal, which saw the bank paying £290m in fines to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic.

None of these executives are among the 24, and Mr Justice Flaux stressed that not all the people who are on the list were implicated in wrongdoing. He said he had allowed the names to be made public in the interests of open justice after the applications for anonymity were opposed by media organisations.

The names were unveiled in a preliminary hearing for a case brought against Barclays by Guardian Care Homes. It is seeking £37m, having alleged that it was mis-sold interest rate hedging products, based on Libor rates. Barclays is contesting the case, and argues it is owed £70m by Guardian.

The action is seen as a test case over the mis-selling of interest rate swaps, which were sold as a means of protecting firms against rising interest rates. The anonymity request was brought by the 104 independently of Barclays. Some 207 email accounts were investigated as part of the Libor inquiry.

Barclays has said it fired five employees after an internal investigation into how its Libor rates were submitted, and disciplined another eight people. A number of other bankers identified in the investigations have since independently left the bank.

Barclays said: "This started as an alleged mis-selling case which the bank considers has no merit. The addition of a claim based on what happened with Libor does not change the bank's view. The fact that someone's documents were reviewed by the bank during its review of millions of documents does not mean that such person was involved in any wrongdoing."

Antony Jenkins offered more contrition for Barclays' past sins at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The new chief executive's attempts to draw a line under the scandals the bank has been involved in have repeatedly been overshadowed by fresh revelations about its past business practices.

Mr Jenkins said the company was addressing past mistakes but admitted that more needed to be done to restore confidence in the beleaguered business. He added: "The industry, and Barclays, got it wrong on occasions. We were too aggressive, we were too short-term focused and too self-serving."

Analysts are expecting more than 3,000 job cuts at the 23,000-strong investment bank.

The Independent revealed this week that hundreds more roles are set to be "offshored" to India as part of a drive to cut costs. The company is widely expected to close down its controversial tax planning unit and cease trading in "soft" commodities, such as grain, both of which have attracted adverse comment.

Broker caught up Icap rates probe

Icap, the broker run by the former Tory party treasurer Michael Spencer, has admitted that it is under investigation by regulators over the alleged setting of Libor interest rates.

The company said a subsidiary that facilitates trading between different banks is being formally investigated.

Icap, as a broker, does not appear on any of the rate-setting Libor panels. But the Financial Services Authority and other regulators are thought to be looking at individual traders at the brokerage and other firms that could have played a role as conduits.

Icap's brokers arrange trades involving a huge range of financial instruments between different banks, allowing them to transact anonymously with each other.

The Libor fixing scandal involved traders at several banks, with Barclays and UBS so far having paid huge fines and Royal Bank of Scotland expected to follow within days.

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