A top Barclays executive who quit over the bank’s rigging scandal told British lawmakers Monday that he was instructed by his former boss Bob Diamond to manipulate key inter-bank lending rates.
Jerry del Missier resigned two weeks ago over the scandal, which has also claimed the jobs of Diamond and Barclays chairman Marcus Agius and rocked the City of London, one of the world’s top financial hubs.
It had emerged that del Missier told Barclays traders to manipulate the bank’s submissions for the Libor and Euribor rates in a bid to make it seem as if other banks were more willing to lend to Barclays than they actually were.
Diamond has said that del Missier did this after “misinterpreting” a phone conversation between Diamond and Bank of England (BoE) deputy governor Paul Tucker in October 2008.
But asked by the British parliament’s Treasury Select Committee on Monday whether the phone call was “an instruction” from Diamond to cut the submissions, del Missier replied: “Yes, it was.”
Diamond, who stepped down as Barclays chief executive hours before del Missier on July 3, previously told the committee he had not instructed del Missier to manipulate the rates.
According to Diamond’s account of the phone call, Tucker had told him that Barclays’ Libor submissions did not always need to be so high.
Diamond said Tucker told him that, against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, British officials were interpreting Barclays’ relatively high Libor submissions as a sign that the bank was struggling.
Diamond told the committee that he had not interpreted the conversation as an instruction from the central bank to rig the rates, but del Missier had.
On Monday, del Missier said: “What was communicated to me by Mr Diamond was that there was political pressure … regarding Barclays’ health and that we should get our Libor rates down.”
Del Missier said he relayed the conversation to the head of the money markets desk and “fully expected that the Bank of England’s views would be incorporated in the Libor submissions.”
He added: “I would have expected that taking that into account would have resulted in lower submissions.”
However, asked by one of the panel if he had been told outright by Diamond to invent submissions, the Canadian replied: “No sir, that’s not what Mr Diamond said.”
Del Missier said that in the context of the events that were shaking the financial world at the time, “it didn’t seem a significant event.”
Asked if he knew that manipulating the Libor rate was illegal, del Missier said: “No, it did not seem an inappropriate action given that this was coming from the Bank of England.”
Barclays was fined £290 million ($452 million, 360 million euros) after admitting attempting to manipulate the Libor and Euribor rates between 2005 and 2009.
Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) is a flagship London instrument used as an interest benchmark throughout the world, while Euribor is the eurozone equivalent.
The rates play a key role in global markets, affecting what banks, businesses and individuals pay to borrow money.