Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker signaled he wants to defend himself and give his version of what happened on a 2008 phone call with former Barclays Plc chief Robert Diamond as the Libor scandal escalates.
Less than 90 minutes before Diamond’s appearance today at a hearing of U.K. Parliament’s Treasury Committee over attempted manipulation of the Libor rate, the central bank said Tucker wants to testify “as soon as possible.” He is “keen'' to “clarify the position with regard to the events involving the Bank of England, including the telephone conversation with Bob Diamond on Oct. 29, 2008,” according to an e-mailed statement.
Tucker was drawn into the scandal after Barclays released a note of the 2008 call purporting to show that he hinted the bank could cut its Libor rates. Diamond, who is giving evidence to the TSC today, resigned as chief executive officer after regulators fined the bank 290 million pounds ($453 million) for attempting to rig the London interbank offered rate.
An Oct. 30, 2008, e-mail from Diamond, then the Barclays investment-banking chief, to John Varley, CEO at the time, reads that “Tucker stated that the levels of calls he was receiving from Whitehall were ‘senior’ and that while he was certain we did not need advice, that it did not always need to be the case that we appeared as high as we have recently.”
Diamond said at the TSC today that he didn’t interpret the call as an instruction from authorities to lower Barclays’s Libor submissions.
He said that Tucker didn’t identify the “Whitehall figures” who were concerned about the bank’s borrowing. He said he interpreted Tucker as saying: “Bob, there are ministers in Whitehall who are hearing that Barclays are always high. That could lead to the impression that you’re not funding yourself.”
Paul Myners, who was minister for the City, London’s financial district, under the last administration, denied he was the source. Ed Balls, the Labour Treasury spokesman who was a Cabinet minister at the time, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and ex-minister Shriti Vadera also denied they spoke to Tucker about Libor. Tucker was markets director at the Bank of England at the time.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the Bank of England didn’t give instructions to Barclays on Libor, the Spectator magazine reported today, citing Osborne.
George Mudie and Andy Love, opposition Labour Party members of the TSC, have called for Tucker to appear to answer the allegations about Libor-fixing made by Diamond. A spokesman for the committee had no immediate comment on Tucker’s request today when contacted by telephone.
The central bank’s discussions on Libor stretch back to at least November 2007, when the issue was raised in a meeting of regulators and bankers led by Tucker to discuss liquidity strains in the U.K.
Minutes of the Sterling Money Markets Liaison Group say “several group members thought that Libor fixings had been lower than actual traded interbank rates through the period of stress.” British Bankers Association representative John Ewan “outlined the quality control and safeguard measures used by the BBA to ensure the quality of Libor,” the minutes said. “Dispersion between panel banks’ submissions had increased during August but had since fallen back, in part reflecting clarification from the BBA on Libor definitions.”