More Bankers Must Resign!

Published in Investing on 2 July 2012

Only mass clearouts will restore faith in banks.

The last few days have been terrible for British bank Barclays (LSE: BARC) and its shareholders.

Marcus Agius, sacrificial lamb

After admitting to rigging key interest rate Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) between 2005 and 2009, Barclays coughed up £290 million ($450 million) in fines to UK and US regulators. However, this rate-rigging scandal will not end there, as 20 other banks remain under investigation by 10 different regulators around the world.

However, in order to restore confidence in Barclays and its staff, chairman Marcus Agius resigned on Sunday evening. In a serious mea culpa issued to the stock market on Monday morning, Agius confirmed his departure from the board of Barclays, admitting:

"...Last week's events -- evidencing as they do unacceptable standards of behaviour within the bank -- have dealt a devastating blow to Barclays' reputation. As Chairman, I am the ultimate guardian of the bank's reputation. Accordingly, the buck stops with me and I must acknowledge responsibility by standing aside."

Agius, a widely admired leader who is 65 and has been Barclays' chairman since January 2007, also stated:

"I am truly sorry that our customers, clients, employees and shareholders have been let down. Barclays is full of hard-working, talented individuals whose integrity is not in question. It goes without saying that Barclays will continue to have my wholehearted support in the future."

In addition, the former chairman confirmed that Barclays is to conduct an independent, 'root and branch' audit of its business practices. Also, to restore its tarnished reputation, the bank will "establish a zero-tolerance policy for any actions that harm the reputation of the bank".

One could easily argue that this smacks of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

'Saving Private Diamond'

The resignation of Agius went some way to mending Barclays' public image, but it was not enough -- not by a long chalk. Indeed, Agius played the role of scapegoat, diverting attention away from Barclays' 60-year-old, American-born chief executive, Bob Diamond.

'Diamond Bob' was paid £27 million in a single year when Barclays was riding high, versus £750,000 a year for its (now outgoing) chairman. Hence, having taken a huge share of the pie when times were good, Diamond should have taken the lion's share of the responsibility for Barclays' current crisis by resigning straight away.

Amazingly, Diamond disagreed and believed that, rather than being cut, he could have stayed and polished his reputation. (Okay, no more gemstone puns.) However, his decision flew in the face of public and political pressure. 

On Monday, more than seven in eight (88%) of readers replying to a Daily Telegraph poll said that Diamond should have quit immediately. Meanwhile, David Cameron has announced a full parliamentary inquiry of the banking sector.

Thankfully, 'Diamond Bob' came to his senses on Tuesday morning and announced his resignation:

"My motivation has always been to do what I believed to be in the best interests of Barclays. No decision over that period was as hard as the one that I make now to stand down as Chief Executive. The external pressure placed on Barclays has reached a level that risks damaging the franchise -- I cannot let that happen. I am deeply disappointed that the impression created by the events announced last week about what Barclays and its people stand for could not be further from the truth."

The buck doesn't stop here

In the parting words of Marcus Agius, the past five years "have been a period of unprecedented stress and turmoil for the banking industry in particular and for the wider world economy in general". Even so, this does not excuse the series of scandals that Barclays -- and other banks -- have engaged in, both before and after the bursting of the credit bubble in 2007.

The past five years have exposed misdeeds such as the manipulation of Libor, widespread mis-selling of PPI (payment protection insurance) to borrowers, mis-selling of interest-rate derivatives to small businesses, and imprudent lending to high-risk borrowers.

In short, it's not that great a stretch to argue that British banks -- including the 'Big Four' of Barclays, HSBC Holdings (LSE: HSBA), Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY) and Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS) -- have gone from 'gross greed' to 'rewards for failure' to 'institutionalised dishonesty'.

What's more, possible criminal charges could follow the Libor investigation. These could include felony charges for complicity to conspire to fix prices under America's Rico law (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). Potentially, this could indict scores of Libor conspirators around the world.

Whose heads should roll?

Events since 2007 have clearly shown leading bank executives to be guilty of ignorance, incompetence, negligence or outright collusion when it comes to controlling highly paid traders. This strongly suggests that more heads must roll before banks can even start to rebuild their shattered reputations and public standings.

To see who could be next in the firing line, I've compiled short biographies of bank bosses, covering chairmen, CEOs, CFOs (chief financial officers) and investment-banking heads. Here they are:

1. Barclays

RoleCurrent occupantOn board/in role sinceComments
ChairmanMarcus AgiusJanuary 2007Resigned 1 July
CEOBob DiamondSummer 1996Resigned 3 July
CFOChris LucasApril 2007Should resign
IB headRich Ricci, Jerry del Missier1994; June 1997Both should resign

The departures of Marcus Agius and Bob Diamond should only be the beginning, as at least three more leaders need to depart Barclays in a mass clearout. Otherwise, Barclays shares will remain under-valued when compared to their global peers, thanks to an associated 'Diamond discount'.


RoleCurrent occupantOn board/in role sinceComments
ChairmanDouglas Flint1995All scandal-free so far
CEOStuart GulliverMay 2008
CFOIain Mackay2010
IB headSamir AssafJanuary 2011

Of all the UK's Big Four banks, HSBC rode out the financial crisis best. Even during the depths of the global financial crisis of 2007-09, HSBC needed no government bailouts. Currently, its board has clean hands, though it has been named as a defendant in Libor lawsuits.

3. Lloyds

RoleCurrent occupantOn board/in role sinceComments
ChairmanSir Winfried BischoffSeptember 2009Banking legend
CEOAntónio Horta-OsórioJanuary 2011Clean hands, but was absent due to stress
CFOGeorge CulmerMay 2012New face

Lloyds concentrates on retail and commercial banking, thus avoiding endless investment-banking scandals. What's more, its board has already been cleared of 'bubble bosses', so it need not worry about these latest developments. Then again, the bank's image has been permanently dented by its £17.4 billion bailout by taxpayers, who currently own more than two-fifths (41%) of the bank's shares.

4. RBS

RoleCurrent occupantOn board/in role sinceComments
ChairmanSir Philip HamptonJanuary 2009Banking VIP parachuted in to rescue RBS
CEOStephen HesterOctober 2008Ex-Abbey banker appointed to turn around RBS
CFOBruce van SaunOctober 2009Another post-crisis appointment
IB headJohn HouricanOctober 2008Should go

RBS nearly died during the crisis of 2007-09, but received a taxpayer bailout of £45.2 billion. It then cleared its board, forcing out its CEO Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin (who had no banking qualifications). Today, the public owns 83% of RBS.

I will single out one 'boom-time bonus' banker at RBS for the chop: John Hourican, chief executive of Markets & International Banking. Hourican was at the heart of investment banking at RBS from 2001 onwards and, frankly, it's a miracle that he has survived thus far. His name should be first on the departure list when RBS eventually gets fined for manipulating Libor.

As an ex-banker, I've been bearish (negative) on banks for five years. In fact, I don't own any bank shares today and have bought none since 2007. Likewise, Britain's biggest investor, Neil Woodford -- who manages £20 billion of our money for Invesco Perpetual -- also shuns bank shares.

To find out which great British businesses Woodford is buying, read Eight Shares Britain's Super-Investor Owns. For more about these eight money-making machines -- and Woodford's magnificent mind and methods -- download your free copy of this report today.

More from Cliff D'Arcy:

> Cliff does not own any of the shares mentioned in this article.

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MunroMan 02 Jul 2012 , 4:52pm

Marcus Agius Esq., Chairman,
Barclays PLC,
1 Churchill Place,
London, E14 5HP
May 9th 2012

Dear Marcus
FSA’s Final Notice Report 27/6/12 – Reinforces Fundamental Tracker IM’s views on remuneration and corporate governance
We appreciate you are pre-occupied with responding to the findings of the recent FSA report detailing Barclays Bank’s misdemeanours in the Libor and Euribor markets. When the dust has settled we believe it is worth revisiting our original suggestions on the appointment of shareholder representatives to the board of the company. In the light of the FSA report it is also imperative to reconsider the whole structure and philosophy of the existing remuneration policy.

Having read the above report it is hardly surprising Barclays has received a poor reception in the press. It is unclear how much responsibility rests with top management, though elements of “senior management” are mentioned in the report as having been aware Libor/Euribor submissions were “manipulated”. Compliance also seem to have been ineffectual despite being informed by Submitters of inherent conflicts of interest, and failing to react. The FSA suggests systems and controls were not improved despite Compliance being told to review them.

The management does deserve credit for being willing to co-operate fully with the FSA, and this has not been recognised adequately by the press. The report indicates clearly that many other banks were involved and have systematically manipulated interbank rates during the period under review. One can only wait to see if the scale of their fines puts Barclays in a better light. It also remains uncertain whether Barclays actually succeeded in manipulating the rates and thus faces a potential litigation risk.

We would also compliment the executives on their willingness to forgo this year’s bonus. We do feel strongly, though, that this incident vindicates our views on the need for a complete restructuring of remuneration policy. The emphasis on bonuses, especially short-term bonuses for traders, puts employee interests at odds with the longer term reputation of the bank and the integrity of its service to its customers. The senior management can set the example by making its remuneration truly long term. The FSA analysis refers back to 2005 through to 2009. It is now 3 to 7 years later that the chickens are coming home to roost. As any banker will admit, similar lengths of time are often needed to test the real profitability of corporate lending or, with hindsight, products such as PPI.
With this in mind one might expect the long term bonuses (LTIPs) due to mature at Barclays over the next few years to be revisited, especially as they are potentially significantly larger than the annual bonuses sacrificed this week by the 4 executives (the FT claims £6.75m ‘v’ £3.38m in 2012 for the CEO). The events described by the FSA suggest profits may have been overstated in the early years of these 3 year schemes and thus RoRWA figures should be recalculated (also taking into account any fines or legal compensation). These LTIPs should in future cover a minimum of 5 years and include our earlier suggestions on appropriate benchmarks (RoE adjusted for debt, peer group TSRs etc).

Desperate times require radical solutions. We feel this is the time to make the necessary changes to NEDO and remuneration policy. Having been the first to come clean over interbank rates, perhaps Barclays could lead the field in addressing these serious corporate governance issues. We think shareholders should be represented on the board and thus monitor the management of their risk capital.

Yours sincerely

Longtermyieldman 02 Jul 2012 , 5:37pm

I share the view that Diamond must go. It's hard to believe he didn't know what was going on with regard to LIBOR at a time when he was running Barclays Capital, especially given the rumoured conversations with the Bank of England, and even if he didn't, he should have done. Moreover, it would see that the bank had opportunities to investigate and 'fess up that it failed to take.

Re the other banks, particularly Lloyds Banking Group, there are other scandals that are bubbling under and will soon probably gain wider coverage (and result in big compensation claims). One is the notorious Bank of Scotland Reading fraud. The other, linked to the first, is widespread mis-selling combined with forcing companies to use dodgy/'tame' insolvency practitioners, presented as 'business recovery experts', to close down businesses which might otherwise present claims for mis-selling.

BigJC1 02 Jul 2012 , 10:30pm

Could you add the Bank of England (Governor please), FSA and any Labour MP linked to the Treasury during that period (Brown, Balls, Darling, etc) to the list of who needs to resign or be prosecuted. They were the gate keepers, it happened on their watch and yet their silence is deafening.

theRealGrinch 02 Jul 2012 , 10:47pm

Im sure they can be caught under the Companies Acts. Going forward a shake up in criminal law for bankers, accountants and solicitors will mean they care about the business even unlimited liability.

we distrust politicians as much as bankers, so the former investigating the latter in their partisan way is a non runner. We want a 100% independent investigation by judge and QCs.

Triassic 03 Jul 2012 , 7:47am

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has resigned with immediate effect.

The move follows the resignation of chairman Marcus Agius and comes less than a week after the bank was fined a record amount for trying to manipulate inter-bank lending rates.

Mr Diamond said he was stepping down because the external pressure on Barclays risked "damaging the franchise".

The prime minister has described the rigging of Libor rates as "a scandal".

YeOldPhart 03 Jul 2012 , 10:38am

Mass clearouts will get more of the same!! Change the culture by introducing REAL independents into board rooms and that means union members who actually work in the institution. The Germans have proved that is the way to both foster a good team and restrain board room excesses. Sir Hobnob cannot easily give Sir Loveydovey a yearly 20% payrise and bonuses with a real people looking on.

Everything else is just pure window dressing because the next lot come from the same schools, backgrounds and are members of the same clubs who all scratch each others backs.

YeOldPhart 03 Jul 2012 , 10:41am

By the way don't cry for Sir Bob or Marcus, they have plenty of other directorships to keep the money rolling in and will anyway reappear like a well sacked football manager at some other company...

CunningCliff 03 Jul 2012 , 10:50am

Official RNS announcement of Bob Diamond's departure:

"Barclays today announces the resignation of Bob Diamond as Chief Executive and a Director of Barclays with immediate effect."

That didn't take long, right, Fools? ;0)


ANuvver 03 Jul 2012 , 11:17am

Do I have the wrong idea of the typical duties and responsibilites of a non-exec chairman and a CEO?

The order of the resignations seems to imply to me that ineffective monitoring is deemed worse than alleged complicity in wrongdoing.

AFAIK LIBOR has always been a glorified fix anyway. The only surprise is the surprise.

As for this scandal spreading wider - I'm no expert, but surely under the calculation criteria, in order for the fix to be effective, Barclays would have to be confident that their LIBOR submissions would fall in the middle of the range, since the extreme submissions are disregarded. Since we're talking about an extremely narrow range, that would suggest a rather cosy relationship with other submitting institutions...

compound200 03 Jul 2012 , 12:22pm

why has Marcus Agius been reinstated as acting chairman?

compound200 03 Jul 2012 , 12:40pm

Marcus Agius, who announced his resignation on Monday in an attempt to conduct anger away from the bank and its chief, will stay on as full-time chairman and lead the search for a new chief executive.

so when you resign you can still pick new chief executive

are they SANE?

RikkiNorman 03 Jul 2012 , 1:25pm

Mr Diamond was either involved in what basically appears to have been fraud or was incapable of assembling/maintaining an honest team. Either way you look at it, it does not look like the performance of this CEO was worthy of the god-like renumeration received - well that's a drag, only human after all.

So, now that all semblance of a superior being has been washed clear, treatment by the same laws and standards as applied to mere mortals should naturally follow - why am I not holding my breath for that to happen?

One has to wonder why the about turn on resignation has suddenly been made - it is a bit late to be worried about the risk of "damaging the franchise". Seems the bigger risk would be that of criminal investigation and the loss of the fortune received for performance based on potentially manipulated figures..........and any other punishment considered appropriate by the courts. Could this be an escape manoeuvre, perhaps with some agreements already being made in the background?? It is getting very difficult to believe or trust anything these days.

Well, I guess we will need to wait and see what the parliamentary inquiry discloses and decides.

In the meantime, however, surely there must now be a growing recognition that it is time to bring these overpaid, would-be demigods back from their self-perpetuating boys' club, from their delusional world of self-worth and have them live on the same planet as the rest of us?

compound200 03 Jul 2012 , 2:09pm

its still a boys club

sippquixote 03 Jul 2012 , 4:21pm


Barclays, like most banks, always tell you that your conversations are recorded.

Yet conversations or emails between Bob Diamond and Jerry Del Missier, and instructions from Jerry Del Missier to his subordinates, appear to be completely unrecorded.

Surely that in itself is so unusual as to raise questions?

compound200 03 Jul 2012 , 4:56pm


might be in the soup tomorrow

DavidRAN 03 Jul 2012 , 5:06pm

Hopefully this mess, which does UK PLC no good at all, will have an up side and lead to greater accountability in the Financial Sector and even spill over into other sectors.
On a personal note, I hope that Barclays will be made to justify their high interest rates charged to First Plus customers.
Maybe and it is a maybe, the end result will be once again GREAT Britain will end up with a banking sector we can all be proud of.
A Tuesday teaser: what is the connection between SKF-BP and Barclays?

AlysonThomson 03 Jul 2012 , 5:21pm

RESIGN? They should be sacked and subjected to criminal prosecution!

roztherick 03 Jul 2012 , 5:41pm

Well said, Alyson Thomson, we have built up a culture in both the private and public sector that seems to find a resignation is acceptable in the face of dreadful dereliction of duty and highly suspect behaviour.
From bankers, through politicians to peers, if they transgress, they should face the same consequences as we do, that is, criminal prosecution.
Self regulation appears to have failed in a number of sectors but perhaps the fear of prosecution may change some of their minds and more importantly, behaviour.

SinNick 03 Jul 2012 , 5:52pm

There are a number of ponts or principles that can be taken from this:

1. When there is something of value at stake, self-regulation or light-touch regulation does not work. In the case of bankers, they could not keep their hands out of the till. In the case of our political masters (servants?!), they gorged on expenses. It is in the human DNA to take what one can. In the past society, one's honour and sense of morality prevented excess on such a dramatic scale - in today's world this no longer is the case. Proper regulation is now required.

2. A penalty of £290m (less than 1 months profit) is just a slap on the wrist and are not a serious deterrent. The penalties need to be significant - £2.9bn will make the shareholders sit up and take notice. The FSA needs proper powers.

3. In spite of committing fraud (this is what this amounts to, if one looks at the definition of fraud), it is unlikely that anyone will be criminally prosecuted in the UK. This has to change.

As a business consultant, I see employees subverting business processes and business systems if it makes their lives easier (Rule 101: "All system users are lazy") or if they can make themselves look better or get something out of it (Rule 102: "All systems users are devious"). Bankers and politicians are just users of another flavour.

DinuHayes 03 Jul 2012 , 5:59pm

One wonders what would have happened if Levison Inquiry was headed by a politician (whose job usually depends on Ministers).Hence this Inquiry must be headed by an independent senior Judge with a wide remit.Some genuine action is needed to clear out the fraudsters.
We do not want a lot of hype or lecrures from politicians,may it be regarding off-shore tax avoiders or expulsion of terrorists or EU.
The Bank directors and perperators of the fraud must be taken to the Courts and made to repay their ill-gained bonuses (similar to any other company).
But alas,I am dreaming.The Old Boys would muddy the issues and carry on as usual until the next scandal and the next.And politicians would blame other politicians and award more knight hoods and titles to their friends.And ordinary citizens would get lectures and hype about hard work,honesty,etc.Ah well,life goes on.I am off to sleep and some more dreams.

leslie48 03 Jul 2012 , 6:15pm

I am so glad I do not bank with Barclays - I use two great banks Co-op's Smile Internet bank and Nationwide. To think Bobby boy Diamond is going to get a package worth 30,000,000 pounds. Shareholders and customers are like sheep being led to slaughter.

leslie48 03 Jul 2012 , 6:15pm

I am so glad I do not bank with Barclays - I use two great banks Co-op's Smile Internet bank and Nationwide. To think Bobby boy Diamond is going to get a package worth 30,000,000 pounds. Shareholders and customers are like sheep being led to slaughter.

Littleaston 03 Jul 2012 , 6:43pm

Diamonds arent forever

snoekie 03 Jul 2012 , 7:03pm

Big JC1, perhaps the Yanks will save us the trouble. They demanded the extradition of 3 bwankers for no crimes here, but crimes in the States. Perhaps they will kindly demand the extradition of Brown Balls (not so much Darling), Cooper, Diamond and the shred, but not forgetting Bliar and Cambell (!), because American citizens lost out because of their activities, perhaps even offending the RICO statutes. And the gate keepers, Turner and King may well be included. We are their vassal, so have to knuckle the forehead and do as they bid.

The Yanks have the right idea on sentencing.

If tried here, Madoff may have gotten away with 10 years and free in 5.

globally 03 Jul 2012 , 7:06pm

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about criminality, may I suggest that we await the outcome of an independent inquiry, In English law, you are innocent until proved guilty and, whilst the activities of a number of people in the banking world appear to have been highly irregular to say the very least, let us not resort to mob rule and hyperbole and, in that process, denigrate the vast majority of decent hardworking people employed in the banking industry and financial world generally. I accept without question that there needs to be a very thorough root and branch clearout in some quarters but let us not forget that the City as a whole generates an enormous amount of income and employment and consequently taxation for the public coffers, and anything that fundementally upsets the balance could have disasterous consequences for not just this countries' deficit reduction programme but its standing in the world as a leading financial centre. I really am convinced that even our politicians understand the seriousness of the situation and that the shake-up that will take place now will go a long way to preventing a repetition of this Libor scandal and other longstanding abuses and will result in the full weight of the law being applied to the guilty fraudsters. Hopefully we will also see the Vickers Report recommendations being enacted upon without delay. This won't be a panacea for all our problems but if the criminal law can be made to be a serious and punitive deterrent, many of those tempted to break the rules (and the law) will think very long and hard before risking the possibility of a a lengthy custodial sentence. I think now is the time for cool heads not mob rule. The dangers to this Country are far to great for that.

Benatar 03 Jul 2012 , 8:49pm

For something this serious, and so high profile; it isn't just the top men should go; but ALL Non-Execs - they are supposed to be policement on the board to stop executives doing anything dodgy. They have obviously failed and MUST resign.

ajgordon 03 Jul 2012 , 9:12pm

Of course they and many others should resign, but the real need is for prosecutions.
Fraud Act 2006 Section 2:
" 2 Fraud by false representation.
(1) A person is in breach of this section if he— .
(a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and .
(b )intends, by making the representation— .
(i) to make a gain for himself or another, or .
(ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss. .
(2) A representation is false if— .
(a) it is untrue or misleading, and .
(b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading. .
(3) “Representation” means any representation as to fact or law, including a representation as to the state of mind of— .
(a) the person making the representation, or .
(b) any other person. .
(4) A representation may be express or implied." .

abogadonz 03 Jul 2012 , 10:11pm

The only way this is going to be prevented from reoccurring in the future is a change of governance structure and the removal of the trader mentality where the next Ferrari is sole objective. Peg gross remuneration to a reasonable multiplier of average pay (say 40 max). But for now the SFO needs to go after directors who vicariously sanctioned this criminal activity at the same time as they go for the traders who rigged the system. It doesn't need the distraction of a Parliamentary enquiry just the undivided attention of the SFO who when properly resourced should be able to go to CPS within 8-10 weeks. Contrary to popular opinion this is not about 20-30 people it is about a culture of expectation and greed fuelled by a short term bonus distribution.
The only outcome that will lift the pall that now hangs over the City is the widespread imprisonment of 100-200 coupled with the loss of all the gains that resulted from their criminal activity. Leave Diamond with half a mil and see how he copes then, Oh yes and ban them all from ever working in financial services ever again.

sippquixote 03 Jul 2012 , 11:17pm

When you see how quickly offenders can be dealt with under the British legal system, why is it taking so long for the SFO and/or CPS to deal with obvious criminality in the banking system?

Could it be that some criminals have friends in high places?

Floorhead 04 Jul 2012 , 7:54am

Wow, all this banking bashing but I have yet to see any comments on the Fool or its members regarding the £3 BILLION

Floorhead 04 Jul 2012 , 7:59am

Wow, all this banking bashing but I have yet to see any comments on the Fool or its members regarding the $3 BILLION fine that GSK is paying for selling unecessary drugs in the USA. Where is the public outrage? Why is the Fool not bashing one of their favourite picks? And while we're venting public rage at people like Jimmy Carr, why is Alex Ferguson not dragged through the mud in the press for tax avoidance?

lameuse 04 Jul 2012 , 3:02pm

I totally agree with Floorhead - "all this banking bashing...".

And why is Mr Murdoch still running his media empire?

ImpeachBob 05 Jul 2012 , 8:00am

I don't think the Government will do anything about these corrupt Bankers because, a couple of years ago, Directors of a business that about fifty people worked for (including myself), were lied to about the state of that company.

Then, those unscrupulous Directors simply used holes in Employment law to withhold staff wages and ultimately cheat employees out of the money that they had worked hard to earn ( ).

Now, despite Employment Tribunals agreeing that staff were treated badly, the High Court tells us that they are powerless to help because of the way that the law has been written.

But, to rub salt in the wound, the local MP and his Government officials simply dodge the issue by claiming that it is not in the public interest to do anything about this matter, whilst refusing to have the Directors struck off, failing to introduce new laws to outlaw these kinds of sharp practices, and not even bothering to call for an inquiry into this scandal.

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