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Monday, July 09, 2012

LIBOR and more: Why won't people focus on the stories that matter?



How can we publicize the LIBOR scandal?

As I write, I'm looking at the Memeorandum news aggregation site, which is supposed to be a place where both righties and lefties can check out the latest headlines. Trouble is, the right sets the agenda. The left is allowed a voice, but only when speaking in response. Liberals are never allowed to say: "Screw that unimportant crap. We need to talk about this..."

Granted, right now Memeorandum offers a link to a story on Salon by Jonathan Krohn, the conservative wunderkind who has wandered off the right-wing reservation. Krohn, still in his teens, is a born writer, and I hope to follow his work even if he makes another right turn. I think he'll one day find that the best position is neither left nor right but one that defies standard topography.

I'm glad that Memeorandum links to Krohn. But let's face it -- this is an easy story for reactionaries to react against. Hate hate hate; burn the heretic; it's all a conspiracy by Evil Soros. As Krohn says:
I have been treated by the political right with all the maturity of schoolyard bullies. The Daily Caller, for instance, wrote three articles about my shift, topping it off with an opinion piece in which they stated that I deserved criticism because I wear “thick-rimmed glasses” and I like Ludwig Wittgenstein. Why don’t they just call me “four-eyes”?
Good stuff, this. But even young Krohn would probably admit that his tale, instructive as it is, doesn't have quite the resonance of the LIBOR scandal.

Matt Taibbi has been writing amazing columns about this latest and greatest Great Bank Robbery. This scandal goes right to the top -- at least, to the top of the British government, and perhaps to our own:
This Libor-manipulation story grows crazier with each passing minute. We have officially disappeared now down the rabbit-hole of the international financial oligarchy.

Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond is testifying before parliament in London today, and that's sure to bring some shocking moments. But there's already been one huge stunner. In advance of that testimony, Barclays released an email from October 29, 2008, written by Diamond to then-Chairman John Varley and COO Jerry del Messier (who also stepped down yesterday). The email from the CEO to the other two senior Barclays execs purports to detail the content of the conversation Diamond had with Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker that same day.

In the email, Diamond essentially tells the other two execs that he has been given permission by Tucker – encouraged, actually – to rig Libor rates downward. What’s even worse is that Diamond’s email suggests that Tucker was only following orders, i.e. that Tucker had received phone calls from "a number of senior figures within Whitehall" – that is, the British government – expressing concern about Barclays' high Libor rates. Tucker in this version of events was acting as a middleman for the British government, telling Diamond to fake his borrowing rates in order to preserve the appearance of financial stability, for the good of Queen and country as it were.
Since rigged LIBOR rates constitute an invisible robbery of -- well, nearly everyone -- the U.K. government arguably has committed an act of economic war.

Yet you can't get the American media to focus on any of this. If you use Google News right now to gauge who is saying what about LIBOR, you'll find links that go mostly to the business press. (They are paying attention, thank God.) You will also find a few Reuters stories. The first link to a general interest newspaper goes to -- you guessed it -- the Guardian. Nothing from CBS, MSNBC, ABC -- and certainly nothing from Fox.

On this very site, you'll see an ever-changing parade of CNN headlines in the third column. I've never noticed any stories about LIBOR. You probably won't see any today, and you probably won't see any tomorrow.

LIBOR is a huge news story overseas. Here in America, no-one wants to touch it.

Sites like Memeorandum could change that situation. Most of the time, that site promotes opinion pieces (usually right-wing opinion), the inevitable political horse race stuff, plus whatever hallucinatory nonsense the Breitbart cultists care to spew at any given moment. But nothing about LIBOR.

How can we can force our media mavens to pay attention to the stories that truly matter?
Comments:
So a bunch of comments re Lie-bor.

1) I have been amazed at the obviously of the PR strategy from Barclays - focus on 2008, and address all comments to the specific libor rigging around the period of banking disruption.

I dont get why the media (in the UK and elswhere) are falling for it. The comments Bob "the knob" Diamond is making about 2008 are probably true. If you knew Paul Tucker you would not be in the slightest bit surprised at his subtle and intentionally deniable instructions to Barclays on Libor. The man always was always an arrogant arse and he probably thought he understood what was unfolding around him. I hope this earns him an early retirement.

The real point is that manipulation and fraud was a common modus vivendi in Libor for as long as anyone can remember. The emails from 2005 are cringe inducing. Why is no one asking about Bob's view of those emails? Forget 2008, lets look at 2003. And lets ask numbers. How much did Barcap make from the fiddle - Does Bob know?

2) Come on, by now you should all get it. In 2008, all the banks were bust. All of them. The fact that they let LEH and Bear Stearns go doesnt mean only those banks were bust. They all were. There had been a bank run, and they all needed government help to survive. Why would you be surprised that Barclays (which actually was in better shape than its british peers cos they had a senior treasury guy who had foreseen the risks) was actually instructed to lower its quotes by the British government via the BoE?

Barclays was publishing high numbers to try and embarass its rivals who were on deaths door. And they did die. RBS is now a ward of the state, as is HBOS.

3) I dont know why the US media arnt looking at this issue. I happen to know that Citi is being investigated in Tokyo and I have met the specific guy they have levelled charges at. UBS in various jurisdictions. JPM is up to its arse in a market manipulation scandal for the californian electricity market. And you guys thought it was just Enron.

You know why bankers commit crimes? Cos they dont arrest white people unless they steal small amounts. Same goes for drug abuse.

Lucky for banker types that little people dont count. Or am I mispeaking? Maybe luck has nothing to do with it.

Forgive the ranting. Couldnt help it.

Harry
 
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