Diamond No Longer a Bank’s Best Friend
With a suitably ostentatious surname, Bob Diamond is perfectly placed to become the next official villain of the banking crises, following recent revelations that he led Barclays into tax avoidance schemes and what might most kindly be called “creative” accounting. The end of this stage of his career has inevitably been painful and rightly so: Diamond will walk away from Barclays with a measly £2m pound pay-off (twice what he is contractually owed but vastly less that the £20m he could have been looking forward to).
Yet is this tendency of the media to heap the blame upon the shoulders of one unfortunately named CEO really helping the national plea for an unravelling of the myths surrounding banks and their role in the economic crisis? Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays, also resigned in a similar display of repentance for fiddling the figures, yet for one reason or another the media has not rallied forces against him to at all the same extent. Choosing a scapegoat to villainize in the national press produces popular articles and a united audience, but inevitably leads to a distorted depiction of events. For example the long fought-over tuition fee rises were linked inextricably to the Liberal Democrats and above all the failure of Nick Clegg, but no one thought to point out that it was the dissension of the (more powerful) Conservative part of the Coalition which ultimately tore the policy into shreds. David Cameron and his MPs escaped largely unscathed and blame fell on arguably the much less blame-worthy party.
Of course I am not suggesting that Bob Diamond is blameless for the incomprehensible goings-on within the bowels of Barclays bank. His pleas of ignorance sound as hollow as his insistent claim to MPs, “I love Barclays”, as that very organisation throws him unceremoniously from its doors. Yet firstly, can we really hold one individual utterly responsible for the actions of others in his employment who have crucially escaped our notice? And if so, aren’t there many more bank leaders gleefully hiding their own so-far successful manipulations of the figures within their own banks?
Bob Diamond may have been in the wrong but he is certainly not alone. He has become the public enemy number one of our nation’s financial health, yet this position forces him to shoulder the blows which should be falling on banking culture as a whole. Diamond is certainly not a bank’s best friend… but nor is he the only blackguard in the pack.