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RBS Not Taking A "Knee-Jerk" Approach To Laying Off Employees

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Earlier this week, it was reported that RBS would be taking the next couple months to decide which businesses it wants to "remain in" and which it doesn't. Management was said to be considering "shutting or selling" its equities unit and, as these things go, laying off the 1,000 people it employs, as well as others who may find themselves working in a division the royalest bank isn't so keen on anymore. As humans tend not to look on the bright side of potentially getting fired, the staff has been in a bit of a funk lately. Hearing the team needed some frowns turned upside down, Global Banking & Markets CEO John Hourican sent out a memo this morning attempting to do just that, by noting 1) that everything everyone's read about layoffs and the closing of entire business units is true, but that all that was communicated, like, a couple months ago, so let's not act like it's coming as a shock 2) everyone in finance is making tough choices right now 3) obviously, though, we've had our teeth kicked in harder than most 4) contrary to popular belief, we're not just putting your names in a hat and deciding who gets fired from there 5) Happy holidays. Do something nice for yourself, you deserve it.

In November when we announced our Q3 results, we were explicit about the fact that we are re-examining our business strategy and resource deployment to ensure that, in normal markets post the introduction of known capital and regulatory changes, we continue to have a business that can compete and continue to be relevant to our customers.

It has been unhelpful to have our company's strategy so publicly commented on in recent days. I appreciate that this has been unsettling for many of our employees but it is important to recognize that everything that has been paraphrased or speculated on in the media and parliament was already communicated to you at the time of the Q3 results.

Across our industry, every firm is re-examining strategy and resource allocation. The capital required to support our business continues to rise. The level of unsecured wholesale funding used by our business needs to be materially reduced. We need to ensure that our business is right-sized to produce an acceptable and sustainable return on equity for our shareholders.

Making sure we are fit to compete will necessarily involve some further choices. We will need to drive costs lower and potentially make some further product or geographic choices to ensure that core the business we retain can compete strongly and with sufficient levels of resource and return. We promised to communicate this more fully with you as decisions are made, and this continues to be our intention. This will be no later than the full year results in February 2012.

2011 was not an easy year for our industry and for our business. The economic environment remains very fragile. The continuing euro-zone crisis, changing regulation, over-capacity in our industry, lower client activity and lower business confidence will continue to make for challenging times.

Our business has been through a greater level of prolonged change than most in our industry. I recognize that there is a level of fatigue across the entire business and that most of you are looking forward to a much needed and deserved break over the coming holiday period.

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for your continued commitment and efforts. I realise this is a difficult environment and positivity can be in short supply. I also realise that there is a great desire amongst our troops for further clarity on strategy and purposeful decision making. You should continue to be assured that this is both understood and that we are advanced in our thinking in most respects. We owe it to all our staff to get this right, not to knee-jerk in a gloomy environment and to ensure that the decisions we make are both valuable to our franchise and additive to the confidence of our employees and other stakeholders.

Thank you for your perseverance and patience. I wish you and your families a restful holiday and a prosperous 2012.

John Hourican


RBS Trader Whose Instant Messages Clearly Show Him (Allegedly) Engaging In Libor Manipulation Not Going Down Without A Fight

One thing that most people probably agree on is that having their instant messages, e-mails, and phone calls end up court would be cause for at least a little embarrassment. Everyone's thrown in an emoticon they aren't proud of, some of us have used company time to chat with significant others about undergarments, and the vast majority of workers have spent a not insignificant amount of the workday talking shit about their superiors. Of course, the humiliation gets ratcheted up a notch in the case of people who 'haha' (and in extreme circumstances "hahahah') their own jokes* which, just for example, involve habitual Libor manipulation. Tan Chi Min knows what we're talking about: “Nice Libor,” Tan said in an April 2, 2008, instant message with traders including Neil Danziger, who also was fired by RBS, and David Pieri. “Our six-month fixing moved the entire fixing, hahahah.” And while having such an exchange become public would be tremendously awkward for most, you know what's really 'hahaha' about this whole thing is that 1) Tan was the one who wanted people to read the above, which was submitted as part of a 231-page affidavit earlier this month and 2) He's trying to use it as evidence that he didn't deserve to be fired. The conversations among traders at RBS and firms including Deutsche Bank AG illustrate how the risk of abuse was embedded in the process for setting Libor, the benchmark for more than $300 trillion of securities worldwide......Tan, the bank’s former Singapore-based head of delta trading for Asia, [is] suing Britain’s third-biggest lender by assets for wrongful dismissal after being fired last year for allegedly trying to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. Tan, who 'allegedly' tried to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, also included this conversations as part of his defense: “What’s the call on Libor,” Jezri Mohideen, then the bank’s head of yen products in Singapore, asked Danziger in an Aug. 21, 2007, chat. “Where would you like it, Libor that is,” Danziger asked, according to a transcript included in Tan’s filings. “Mixed feelings, but mostly I’d like it all lower so the world starts to make a little sense,” another trader responded. “The whole HF world will be kissing you instead of calling me if Libor move lower,” Tan said, referring to hedge funds. “OK, I will move the curve down 1 basis point, maybe more if I can,” Danziger replied. And this: In another conversation on March 27, 2008, Tan called for RBS to raise its Libor submission, saying an earlier lower figure the bank submitted may have cost his team 200,000 pounds. “We need to bump it way up high, highest among all if possible,” Tan said. Tan also asked for a high submission in an Aug. 20, 2007, instant message to Scott Nygaard, global head of RBS’s treasury markets in London. “We want high fix in 3s,” Tan said in the message. “Neil is the one setting the yen Libor in London now and for this week and next.” Also this: “It’s just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money or lose if opposite,” Tan said on an Aug. 19, 2007, conversation with traders at other banks, including Deutsche Bank’s Mark Wong. “It’s a cartel now in London.” And this philosophical one, for good measure: “This whole process would make banks pull out of Libor fixing,” Tan said in a May 16, 2011, chat with money markets trader Andrew Smoler. “Question is what is illegal? If making money if bank fix it to suits its own books are illegal... then no point fixing it right? Cuz there will be days when we will def make money fixing it.” The defense rests. RBS Instant Messages Show Libor Rates Skewed for Traders [Bloomberg] *Although actually people who do this probably don't even have the good sense to be ashamed of themselves.