Bob Diamond, former boss of Barclays, indicated he was ready to fight for his payoff of up to £22m at a parliamentary hearing. He told the Treasury select committee he "got physically ill" when he first read an exchange of emails between the 14 Barclays staff who manipulated interest rates.
Diamond used a series of descriptions such as "reprehensible", "bad" and "abhorrent" as he made his first public appearance since resigning from the bank he "loves" on Tuesday after 16 years – and 18 months at the top.
The American-born banker – who has been paid about £100m since 2006 – missed an opportunity to quell any controversy about a potential payoff when asked about the need for claw back and giving up share awards after the $451m fine for rigging rates was announced last week.
Labour MP Andrew Love asserted that "there has to be recognition in that final payoff of what went wrong". But Diamond insisted "that is a question for the board".
In a hearing with MPs at which Diamond made a staunch defence of his tenure at Barclays, he made clear that he did not think Paul Tucker, Bank of England deputy governor, had given the bank free rein to cut its interest rates during the October 2008 banking crisis.
During the session Diamond mentioned two political figures – former City minister Lord Myners and Shriti [Baronness] Vedara – as he was questioned about remarks he attributed to Tucker that Whitehall figures had been concerned about the high rates Barclays had been submitted for two key interest rate benchmarks – the London interbank offered rate (Libor) and its European equivalent Euribor – during the crisis. But he was careful not to suggest they were figures that Tucker might have been referring to.
Diamond said that "it was reprehensible," when asked about the emails which showed traders boasting "this is for you big boy" and offering bottles of Bollinger champagne.
He had not seen the emails until the weekend before the fine, which was announced last Wednesday, when was sent the findings of the regulators in the UK and US.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, levelled a series of allegations against Diamond, asking whether it was true that the Financial Services Authority had raised questions about his initial appointment as chief executive of Barclays in the autumn of 2010.
Diamond quit on Tuesday in a dramatic 24 hours for the bank, which the day before had said the chairman Marcus Agius would go, as the buck stopped with him.
Tyrie said he had also been told that the FSA had raised a number of concerns about the bank at a Barclays board meeting in February when FSA officials attended.
In a packed hearing in the Wilson Room, Diamond said he had no knowledge of concerns registered by the FSA at the time of his appointment – announced in September 2010.
Referring to the FSA's attendance at Barclays board meeting in February, Tyrie said: "Did they tell you that trust had broken down between the FSA and Barclays ?"
Diamond insisted this was the not the case but conceded that regulators had previously expressed concern about Protium, the Cayman Islands fund that was set up to manage $12bn (£7.5bn) of its most troublesome assets but is now being unwound.
He said Protium was a "transaction that created more debate between Barclays and the FSA than anyone anticipated".
To avoid a repeat of the incident when Rupert Murdoch appeared before MPs and was hit by a protester, security was tight with heavy police security and sniffer dogs on hand. Diamond explained that he had quit to break the "bridge" between him and the bank. "I love Barclays, that's where it starts," said Diamond.
He insisted that he did not know if Agius had been contacted by regulators on Monday night to try to force his resignation.
The record £290m fine levied on Barclays was for attempting to manipulate the interest rate benchmarks, supposedly based on the rates at which banks lend to one another – the London interbank offered rate (Libor) and its European equivalent Euribor between 2005 and 2009. There were two significant findings – that Barclays traders did favours for colleagues ("submitters") to submit higher or lower rates to the Libor panel to help generate profits; and during the 2008 banking crisis they reduced submissions to avoid any suggestion that the bank was in financial difficulty.
Barclays released an email written by Diamond recording a conversation with Tucker in October 2008, which has caused some confusion about whether the Bank of England was encouraging Barclays to reduce its submissions to Libor.
In a statement barely an hour before Diamond's Tucker took the unusual step of publicly asking to appear before the committee.
Diamond insisted again that he did not interpret Tucker's remarks as a signal to shift Libor submissions even when Tyrie said that it looked to anyone reading it like a "nod and wink".
The sequence of events unleashed by that email, sent in the darkest days of the banking crisis, also forced the departure of Jerry del Missier, who was Diamond's closest colleague at the bank.
Del Missier, a Canadian, was promoted to chief operating officer a fortnight ago, but was named as the top executive who instructed more junior staff to lower the bank's submissions to Libor.
Diamond was asked why Del Missier had interpreted his email as a licence to cut Libor submissions. He said he did know and had not discussed it with him.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Have something to tell us about this article?