Barclays' ex-boss faces parliamentary grilling

Associated Press
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 file photo Bob Diamond, Chief Executive of Barclays, listens during a plenary session on the first day of the 40th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond has resigned with immediate effect, the latest scalp of a financial markets scandal that has also cost the job of the chairman. The bank said Tuesday July 3, 2012, that outgoing-chairman Marcus Agius would lead the search for Diamond's replacement. (AP Photo/Keystone/Laurent Gillieron, file)
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FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 file photo Bob Diamond, Chief Executive of Barclays, listens during a plenary session on the first day of the 40th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond has resigned with immediate effect, the latest scalp of a financial markets scandal that has also cost the job of the chairman. The bank said Tuesday July 3, 2012, that outgoing-chairman Marcus Agius would lead the search for Diamond's replacement. (AP Photo/Keystone/Laurent Gillieron, file)

LONDON (AP) — The former chief executive of Barclays will be in the spotlight later Wednesday when he is quizzed by an influential group of British lawmakers over the bank's manipulation of interbank lending rates.

The appearance of Bob Diamond before the House of Commons Treasury Committee had been planned before his resignation on Tuesday, and there is mounting speculation that he will say that others, outside the confines of Barclays, knew about the interest-rate fixing scandal.

Particular interest will center on what Diamond says about a conversation he had in 2008 with Paul Tucker, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, about Barclays reporting higher borrowing costs than other banks.

A note recorded by Diamond, which has been submitted to the committee, said Tucker initiated the call as senior government officials were wondering why Barclays was reporting higher borrowing rates than other banks.

"I asked if he could relay the reality, that not all banks were providing quotes at the levels that represented real transaction," Diamond recorded. "His response (was) 'Oh, that would be worse.'"

Diamond added that Tucker told him "that while he was certain we did not need advice, that it did not always need to be the case that we appeared as high as we have recently."

Barclays insists that Diamond did not take this to be an order from Tucker. However, it says a subordinate, Jerry del Missier, mistakenly thought the central bank had ordered Barclays to report lower rates and passed the instruction on.

The Bank of England said Wednesday that Tucker was "quite keen" to testify to the committee to give his version of the conversation.

Barclays shares were down 0.4 percent at 166.45 pence in midday trading in London, while HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland were all down more than 1 percent.

The Bank of England has denied knowing of any impropriety in setting the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR. "If we had been aware of attempts to manipulate LIBOR we would have treated them very seriously," it said.

Barclays has said it had no intention of manipulating LIBOR in 2008, though some of its traders had done so to protect their own positions starting in 2005.

Diamond is not the only victim of the scandal. Barclays chairman Marcus Agius and del Missier have resigned this week too over the scandal. Del Missier, formerly a top executive at Barclays Capital in New York, was identified as the subordinate who gave an order to report lower rates.

Pressure had been building on the bank over the past week since U.S. and British regulators imposed fines totaling $453 million against Barclays for false reporting of its borrowing costs between 2005 and 2009.

Those reports, along with those of other banks, feed into the calculation of LIBOR.

Barclays has said it suspected that other British banks were reporting lower than accurate borrowing rates at the height of the credit crisis. Lower rates would tend to indicate that lenders had confidence in those banks. Barclays has said its higher reports generated rumors that it was in trouble.

The release of Diamond's memo has also piled the pressure on the Bank of England, raising questions about whether the central bank was aware of reports that banks were giving false readings of borrowing costs and, if so, why it apparently did nothing about it.

Paul Myners, a Treasury minister in the previous Labour government, said Wednesday that the Bank of England probably would have a recording or a formal minute of Tucker's conversation with Diamond.

"We will find the answer to this quite quickly," he told BBC radio.

The Bank of England has declined to comment on reports that its governor, Mervyn King, joined with Adair Turner, chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, in advising Barclays that Diamond had to go.

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