Diamond admits traders' behavior "reprehensible"

Thu Jul 5, 2012 8:54am EDT
 
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By Matt Scuffham

LONDON (Reuters) - The chastened former head of Barclays apologized for the "reprehensible" behavior of his traders who fixed interest rates, but told British lawmakers on Wednesday his bank had been unfairly singled out after coming forward to admit wrongdoing.

Bob Diamond, 60, quit this week after Barclays agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars in fines for manipulating the interest rates at the heart of the global financial system.

British politicians have seized on the case as a symbol of a culture of greed that has poisoned the entire financial industry. Newspapers have highlighted e-mails disclosed in the case which show traders congratulating each other for fiddling figures with promises of bottles of champagne.

Appearing thoughtful and humble before an often hostile parliamentary committee, the man who until Tuesday was one of the world's highest paid and most powerful financial executives with an aggressive reputation acknowledged "inexcusable" behavior among his group's traders.

"When I read the e-mails from those traders, I got physically ill," Diamond said. "That behavior was reprehensible, it was wrong. I am sorry, I am disappointed and I am also angry."

He said those involved in rigging interest rates would be subject to criminal investigation and should be "dealt with harshly".

The wrongdoing at the 300-year-old bank was "not representative of the firm that I love so much", the American banker said, appearing on his nation's Independence Day. But he insisted that Barclays was being made a scapegoat because it had cooperated with the authorities to help unearth the misdeeds.

"This week the focus has been on Barclays because they were the first," Diamond said, describing years of cooperation with regulatory agencies to uncover the practice.   Continued...

 
Barclays bank former Chief Executive Bob Diamond arrives at Portcullis House to attend a Treasury select committee hearing in Westminster, London July 4, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor