Banks, drugs, Mexico and jobs at the top
So Paul Moore, formerly responsible for compliance at HBOS and who was sacked after warning in 2004 that the bank’s lending was risky and in serious danger of-heating, has applied to be the Chairman of Barclays.
Mr. Moore, whom I met and talked with extensively last week, is unlikely to be hanging around his phone in the expectation of a Barclays call.
Although, I have met no one who knows quite so much about where the more noxious of the banking bodies are buried.
Mr. Moore’s request to replace the resigned, and currently un-resigned Chairman of Barclays, Marcus Agius, provides yet another bizarre notch on the bedpost of British banking. The explosion of scandal in the banking sector feels like something that hasn’t been seen since the South Sea Bubble burst in 1720.
Yet the South Sea Bubble was miniscule in comparison with the multi trillion dollar scale and global ramifications of what is happening now.
We started July with millions of RBS customers unable to access their own money because of what was described of a wrongly applied ‘computer patch’.
Then the Financial Services Authority announced that effectively all the big banks had been involved in the scandalous mis-selling of PPI interest rate swap products and would have to pay it all back.
The FSA emphasised that small businesses and ordinary personal customers had been the targets of the mis-selling of untold quantities of financial products they never understood, and never needed. Lloyds bank alone has made provision of some £3.2 billion to pay compensation.
When Barclays was convicted and fined here and in America (some $450 million) for ‘manipulating’ the Libor rate which provides the daily benchmark for the setting of most inter bank lending across the world, we wondered if it could get worse. It could.
The US reported that all the British big banks were on a list of some twenty global banks being investigated for the same thing. Individual traders had made extraordinary quantities on money through the practices and individual customers had, on occasion, suffered higher rates than those that that were in reality in play.
Then this week it was revealed in Washington DC that HSBC had been laundering billions of dollars of drug gangsters’ loot. The bank’s compliance Director resigned there and then in front of the Senate Banking Committee, but not before releasing documents that revealed that he had told the then HSBC chairman of the ‘problem with Mexico’. The bank is expected to be fined somewhere around $1bn.
Amid all this, the runners and riders to take over next year as Governor of the Bank of England have been under scrutiny. Sir Mervyn King’s Deputy, Paul Tucker, is one. No one knows whether conversations with Gordon Brown’s Downing Street during the 2008 financial meltdown will have improved or reduced his chances. But two other names that were in play, namely John Varley, former CEO of Barclays, and Stephen (now Lord) Green, formerly CEO of HSBC, have fallen out of the reckoning spectacularly.
Both men were on deck during the period of both the mis-selling and the Libor ‘manipulation’. But Stephen Green had the additional accolade of being CEO and then Chairman of HSBC as his bank provided those money laundering services for some of the most violent, exploitative, and evil drug barons on earth.
Lord Green is now not only the Minister of Trade, but since October he has also been on the Cabinet Banking Committee, and George Osborne’s advisor on banking.
The question Peers tried to raise last night in the House of Lords was how long this arrangement could continue. Thankfully, for Lord Green, the Lords be-wigged authorities were able to shut the matter down.
Will the rest of us have short enough memories to let the matter rest once the politicians return from the beach?