Like Lloyd Blankfein with the Abacus fiasco, and Jamie Dimon with “the whale trade,” Barclays CEO Bob Diamond has an unparalleled opportunity to surprise us this week during his appearance before Parliament to explain the most recent financial scandal involving the systematic manipulation of LIBOR, the benchmark interbank lending rate upon which hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial transactions are priced, over several years. Will Diamond seize the opportunity missed by both Blankfein and Dimon to emerge as the first true financial statesman of the modern global banking crisis?
Reactions to departing Goldman derivatives salesman Greg Smith’s “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” which appeared as an op-ed in the New York Times last week, have ranged from the hyperbolic — Robert Reich’s “If you took the greed out of Wall Street, all you’d have left is the pavement” — to the addicted — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “we need their taxes” (my paraphrase).
Both views are problematic, as I will address. But first, some historical context: