Much has already been made of Barclays' (BCS) role in the LIBOR rate scandal and has focused on the quantitative effects such as criminal charges, regulatory changes, and civil lawsuits. But the vague, qualitative effects have yet to be fully realized or discussed. Barclays shall, due to its early prominence, be the bank that is most associated with the LIBOR rate scandal and thus carry the stigma of the scandal more than and longer than any other bank.
Barclays is the Face of the Scandal
There are several reasons that this scandal will remain in the public eye with Barclays at the center.
First, twenty banks contribute to the calculation of the LIBOR rate including banks such as Barclays, Deutsche Bank (DB), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Credit Suisse (CS), Citigroup (C), UBS (UBS), HSBC (HBC), and JPMorgan Chase (JPM). Due to the nature of the market's attention span and the way in which news is reported, only the most egregious offenders will be highlighted. But by being the first bank to come forward, Barclays will be a mainstay of the story regardless of the extent of other banks' involvement.
Second, Barclays' attempt to gain goodwill by cooperating with authorities, admitting guilt, and accepting fines has backfired and led to the resignations of the Chairman, CEO, and COO. While Barclays has avoided criminal prosecution, it is still open to civil lawsuits (the total value of which, at this point, is impossible to estimate). Given how little Barclays gained by cooperating, other banks will be hesitant to follow in their footsteps. This will delay investigations and extend the period of time during which Barclays is the only bank that has been fully investigated.
Third, the British government's investigation will inevitably continue for several months. A parliamentary vote on Thursday opted for a parliamentary probe, headed by the Serious Fraud Office, as was advocated by the Prime Minister and his Conservative Party, claiming that it would be quicker than the more in-depth judicial inquiry pushed by the opposition Labour Party. Though the Serious Fraud Office's investigation may be quicker, due to the sheer scope of the scandal, it will undoubtedly drag into the foreseeable future. This will ensure that the LIBOR scandal - and thus Barclays' role in the scandal - continues to be a part of the headlines.
Fourth, due to the importance of the LIBOR rate in the global economy, the number and magnitude of civil lawsuits against Barclays and other banks cannot yet be estimated. What is known is that they will continue for years, continually reminding people not just of the LIBOR rate fixing scandal but also of Barclays' role in it.
The quantitative effects of this scandal will be massive and very difficult, if not impossible, to estimate at this stage. Fines will be levied, lawsuits will be filed, criminal charges will be made, and regulations will be tightened.
The qualitative effects are even more difficult to measure but no less important. Bankers are already hated by voters and punching bags for politicians - the fixing of LIBOR rates confirms many of the worst aspects of bankers' reputations. And Barclays' reputation has been greatly tarnished with the stigma of this scandal.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.