News Release

Barclays Scandal Highlights Need to “Clean the Cesspit”

STEPHANY GRIFFITH JONES, sgj2108 at columbia.edu
Stephany Griffith Jones is Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University. With José Antonio Ocampo, and Joseph E. Stiglitz she co-edited Time for a Visible Hand: Lessons from the 2008 World Financial Crisis. Available for a limited number of interviews, she said today: “This is just the latest in a series of scandals. Barclays was simply lying about how much it was costing them to borrow money. They did this partly to appear to be in a better position than they in fact were, but mostly to make more money.

“British banks were also improperly selling derivatives to small and medium enterprises. There was also the recent Royal Bank of Scotland problem for transferring money to their account holders. These financial institutions are not competent, nor efficient. They are also in many cases corrupt.

“There’s been criticism from many quarters, including conservative quarters and calls by the Labour leader Ed Miliband for a broad inquiry. At present the government says it cannot prosecute Barclays, as the LIBOR [The London InterBank Offered Rate] misdemeanors are not covered by law. Also, some are saying: Be careful, you don’t want to undermine a strong local industry, and they have influence over the politicians.

“This shows again that we have an appalling financial system that doesn’t support the real economy, but often hurts it. And for that, there’s a growing outrage, a need to ‘clean the cesspit’ as one politician, Vince Cable — the UK Business Secretary — put it.

“Even the IMF has been saying that a smaller financial system might be better for the rest of the economy. Up until now, many have insisted that a large financial system was better for the economy, but it’s clear that with speculative parts of banking running amok, that is not the case.”