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By Simon Johnson
In the aftermath of the Barclays rate-fixing scandal, the most surprising reaction has been from people in the financial sector who fully understand the awfulness of what has happened. Rather than seeing this as an issue of law and order, some well-informed people have been drawn toward arguments that excuse or justify the behavior of the Barclays employees.
This is a big mistake, in terms of both the economics at stake and the likely political impact.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission nailed the detailed mechanics of this deception in plain English in its “Order Instituting Proceedings” (which is also a settlement and series of admissions by Barclays). Most of the compelling quotes from traders involved this scandal come from the Order, but too few commentators seem to have read the full document. Please look at it now, if you have not done so already.
Barclays has acknowledged that its staff took part in a wide-ranging conspiracy (or perhaps a set of conspiracies) to rig markets – including, but not limited to, any securities for which the price is linked to a particular set of short-term interest rates.
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