18 August 2010
Exercised About Barclays Settlement With US Authorities On Sanction Busting
I have become increasingly bemused by the story about Barclays agreeing a settlement with the US authorities regarding violations of US sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan. The amount of the settlement was about $300 million (£192 million), which seems remarkably low, even though a lawyer from the Justice department stated that the settlement was "beyond what they [Barclays] earned" from the business transacted.
However, it is not the piddling amount that is exercising me, rather the fact that the story is a complete non-story. Barclays broke the law in the US, yet we all just shrug our shoulders and regard it as a non-story, but if your neighbour broke sanctions or was involved in money laundering, I am sure that firstly, we would be thrown into gaol, but also treated with scorn by friends and family.
Where are the politicians nowadays who would stand up like Edward Heath when he denounced Tiny Rowland, the mining baron, as the "unacceptable face of capitalism" in part for breaking sanctions against Rhodesia. Our economies and political systems are now so inextricably linked with the big mega-banks for financing governmental projects and deficits that they dare not complain or criticise. What a damp squib it has been so far with the post-financial crisis review of banking across the Western world, and so (I guess) it will remain.
Have business and corporate morality really fallen so low that we just accept corrupt behaviour as an expected corporate norm? Is business all about money and nothing else whatever the underlying basis of the transactions? Perhaps it is and I am just a naive fool, but I hope there are some out there in the ether who try and conduct their lives - personal and business - with some basic ethics.