This is a guest post on trading from Tusk Trader (check out the newly launched site: www.TuskFund.com), an experienced Bay Street trader who will be writing here until Tusk’s own blog is set up. Tusk had a front row seat to the twists, turns, and almost collapse of our capital market systems a few years ago and provides a unique perspective you won’t find anywhere else. For most people, financial literacy is the elephant in the room. Let Tusk Trader help change that. If you are on twitter, make sure to follow Tusk at @TuskTrader
Last week one of the largest fines dished out ever, $450 million, was handed to Barclays. This week, the CEO Bob Diamond and the COO Jerry del Missier left the firm. Their departure is being blamed on the fiasco surrounding the Libor scam. It has been discovered that Libor has been fixed by a number of participants since approximately 2005. I remember first hearing rumours around the trading floor that Libor was being fixed in 2007. I didn’t believe it. I could not fathom that a group of traders could agree to “help” each other that much. It has since been revealed that Libor was fixed to not just make some departments look more profitable but to actually keep them a float. It has also been alleged that many people ranging from the Bank of England to the British Banking Association knew full well what was happening. This was not some complex scam relying on math and technical computer skills possessed only by the trading version of Sheldon Cooper. This scam was carried out by traders who were dumb enough to email each other about it constantly.
What really bothers me is how this scam played out. I am some random trader, holding a job of no significant market influence, sitting in an office in Toronto and I hear about a rumour years before something is done about the massive collusion occurring. How is it possible that I knew about something of this significance and importance, before regulators did anything about it? By 2008 there were journalists reporting on the allegations and yet it was years before this charade was halted. I understand that investigations are not always speedy, that it takes time to figure out guilty parties and to levy fines. I do not understand is why the act itself was allowed to continue. Libor is used as an underpinning for many the financial mechanics of the capital markets and its accuracy is of galactic importance. I am actually far angrier with the regulators who dropped the ball. When everything is stripped away, Bob Diamond’s job was to answer to his shareholders. The regulators answer to market participants. And my message from this market participant is that you all failed. This story is far from over as Mr. Diamond is lined up to go before a Common Treasury Committee in the UK this week. It should be interesting as he did not do a proper job, but neither did they. I do not see this committee uncovering anything magical. It will be hours of testimony that will boil down to the pot calling the kettle black.