Blaming Bankers Who Say `End the Blame Game'

Former Barclays CEO Robert Diamond, who once called for an end to blaming banks, is wanted for questioning by U.K. prosecutors.
I'm over it. You should be, too. Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg

The next time you read about a well-known banker calling for an end to banker-bashing, remember Robert Diamond, the former chief executive officer of Barclays Plc. Back in January 2011, Diamond appeared before the House of Commons Treasury Committee in London, where he told lawmakers it was time to move on and stop beating up on the financial-services industry.

"There was a period of remorse and apology for banks. That period needs to be over," he said. "The biggest issue is `How do we put some of the blame game behind us?' There's been apologies and remorse. Now we need to build some confidence."

Now Diamond is back in the news, almost two years after leaving Barclays under a cloud. U.K. prosecutors have asked to interview him "under caution," as the Brits say, which means that anything he says can be used as evidence in a criminal trial.

As Bloomberg News described it, the probe centers on a 2008 payment of 322 million pounds ($544 million) by Barclays to the Qatar Investment Authority. At the time, Barclays was trying to raise 7 billion pounds from investors, including the Qataris, to stem the fallout from the financial crisis. Diamond was head of Barclays's investment bank at the time of the fundraising.

Prosecutors are examining whether the payment amounted to a bribe, so that the Qataris would invest in the bank and provide it a badly needed vote of confidence. Diamond is one of 12 individuals that the U.K. Serious Fraud Office has asked to interview under caution, Bloomberg reported. He hasn't been accused of wrongdoing, and a spokesman for Diamond said he will assist wherever he can.

Diamond has wriggled out of tight spots before. Almost two years ago, the Justice Department cleared him of wrongdoing, although it didn't mention him by name, as part of Barclays's $160 million non-prosecution agreement over the bank's manipulations of the London interbank offered rate.

In short, the Justice Department's lawyers accepted Diamond's version of events. A week after the agreement, however, the House of Commons Treasury Committee held another hearing at which Diamond testified, where his story was called into serious question. (You can read more about the details here.) Since then, he has moved on to form a new investment company, Atlas Merchant Capital LLC.

No wonder Diamond wanted to put the blame game in the past. He didn't want to get blamed.

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