RBS

Once, in 2007, the people who ran RBS though it would be a good idea to buy a Dutch bank with lots and lots of toxic assets. It proved to be not so good an idea, so RBS needed to raise some cash. So it sold £12 billion worth of new stock in June 2008.

In the face of a £28 billion net loss it announced a few months later, that fresh capital evaporated rather quickly, forcing a new share sale to Her Majesty’s Treasury. The people who bought those £12 billion in shares, unsurprisingly, aren’t thrilled about what happened to the value of those shares before and after nationalization. So 12,000+ are suing, seeking several billion pounds from Fred Goodwin & Co., which makes the loss of his knighthood seem rather a bargain. Read more »

Mervyn King is leaving the Bank of England in a couple of months, and he’s got nothing to lose. So he’s spitting in George Osborne’s eye, blaming RBS for bollocking up the British economy and calling for a Solomonic solution to the problem. Read more »

The bank, which is 82 percent owned by British taxpayers, said its fourth quarter losses increased 44 percent from a year earlier, to 2.60 billion pounds. That led to a full-year loss of 5.97 billion pounds ($9 billion), up from a shortfall of 2 billion pounds in 2011…RBS suggested that when investors take into account the one-time costs — such as paying the LIBOR fine — the bank is in much better shape than it might look. Operating profit, a measure of earnings before tax and one-time charges, rose to 3.46 billion pounds last year from 1.82 billion pounds. “I think we are coming really closer to the point where we are a normal company again,” Hester told the BBC. [NYP]

  • 11 Feb 2013 at 1:12 PM

RBS Executives Learn Something New Every Day

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc executives told lawmakers they believed it was impossible to rig Libor, less than a week after regulators found traders at the lender manipulated the benchmark for more than four years. “None of us thought of this as a risk that needed this level of attention,” said John Hourican, who resigned as investment-banking head after the fine, told a hearing of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in London today. “It just didn’t occur to anyone that it could be fiddled,” former investment banking chairman Johnny Cameron told lawmakers. [RBS]

You can question some of the life choices that Tom Hayes, a/k/a Trader A, UBS’s Libor-manipulating-est Libor manipulator, has made, but this seems to me inarguable:

Citigroup executives wooed him in June 2009 at a swanky bar in Tokyo. As they showered him with praise, say people who were there, Mr. Hayes rarely spoke, instead letting his girlfriend, a lawyer, answer questions.

Shady traders: date lawyers! And let them do all the talking for you.

That detail is from this amazing Wall Street Journal article about Hayes. When we last discussed Hayes and his totally open and casual requests to people he’d just met to manipulate Libor for him, I asked “is this: (1) all of these people did not fully realize that they weren’t supposed to be doing what they were doing, (2) UBS’s culture was one of complete lawlessness and fuck-around-ery, or (3) both of those things are true and reinforce each other?,” and per the Journal the answer is fascinatingly (3).

I’ve occasionally said that Hayes made a career of Libor manipulating but that’s not entirely right. He started at RBS and, per the Journal‘s account,1 spent his time there mainly being smart and dressing “like a college student — with washed out jeans, a polo shirt and sometimes a threadbare sweater” rather than IMing people to ask them to fix Libor. (That, at RBS, seems to have come later.) Then he moved to UBS: Read more »

It’s getting to be a struggle to be amused by Libor manipulation chats. RBS took its lumps today, and the CFTC and FSA orders are full of quotes, and you can read them in various round-ups, but, meh. Even Bart Chilton is bored; today’s imagery (“sends a signal to those who would monkey around with benchmark rates … much more than a slap on the wrist …”) is a letdown after his UBS masterpiece (“Financial sector violations are hurtling toward us like a spaceship moving through the stars”) just a few weeks ago. I get it! Everyone manipulated Libor! In writing! And then they were like “heh, fukin awexome man, u manipluated libor, gud work, i sexx u now, w champain.” Fabulous.1

Part of why RBS provides less delight than its predecessor Libor-settlers is that RBS made use of the oldest and most reliable way to avoid typos: not typing. From the CFTC order: Read more »

The Wall Street Journal story today about the next Libor domino to fall – RBS, which will be coughing up $700mm or so to regulators in the next few weeks – is full of quietly hilarious lines, perhaps none more so than the Journal‘s deadpan clarification that “the Justice Department has the power to file criminal charges without the bank’s blessing.” For sheer backwardness, though, I think it’s hard to top this:

As part of UBS’s settlement last month, the Swiss bank’s Japanese unit pleaded guilty to wire fraud, a felony. Justice Department officials were heartened by the lack of a negative reaction in the markets and among regulators around the world to UBS’s guilty plea. Before the settlement deal, some officials had worried it could destabilize the bank. That has emboldened officials to pursue similar actions against banks like RBS, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The way a lot of people – sometimes even people at the Justice Department! – think about criminal law goes something like this:

  • If you do something naughty, we will charge you with a crime.
  • If you are convicted of that crime, bad things will happen to you.
  • You don’t want bad things to happen to you.
  • So you won’t do anything naughty.

This is called “deterrence.” All of the parts of it are important: if you are convicted of a crime and bad things don’t happen to you, then the whole system is mostly pointless. When the Justice Department is “heartened by the lack of a negative reaction” to a criminal conviction – when they’re like “yay, no deterrent effect!” – then … then … gaaah. Read more »