Hard Libor

The Libor may be one of the most important financial market statistics you’ve never heard of

Topics: U.S. Economy, Housing, Finance, Economics, Wall Street,

This originally appeared on Jared Bernstein's blog, On the Economy.

Did some TV this afternoon on the resignation of the chairman of Barclays Bank as a result of a rate-rigging scandal around the Libor, a key interest rate estimated daily by the London banking sector.

The Libor may be one of the most important financial market statistics you’ve never heard of.  It’s the rate at which banks trade with each other, but it’s come to be used as a benchmark interest rate on literally trillions of dollars of financial instruments—everything from derivatives, like interest rate swaps, to US mortgages.

For years, there’s been suspicion that the Libor was being manipulated by the banks that set it each day.  Now, according to the NYT, regulators released evidence supporting those suspicions:

Authorities found that employees in the bank’s treasury department, which helped set Libor, submitted artificially low figures at the request of the firm’s traders, who profited from buying and selling financial products. The two sides are supposed to be divided by so-called Chinese walls to ensure that confidential information is not improperly shared to make profits.

But e-mails showed that the two divisions regularly collaborated in an effort to bolster their profits and avoid scrutiny about the bank’s health at the height of the financial crisis.

[BTW, the British regulator in this case is apparently the Serious Fraud Office, which led us at OTE to wonder what the Frivolous Fraud Office is up to.  (h/t: GL)]

What Martin Bashir wanted to know just now was this: how is it that politicians running for office today can say with a straight face that they’ll repeal financial market regulation—Dodd/Frank—so as to release these “job creators” from the terrible chains that bind them?  And in fact, repealing D/F remains a key plank in Gov Romney’s campaign.

There’s no suitable answer to that question.  Anyone who’s paying any attention should be more convinced than ever of underlying instability of financial markets and thus the need for regulatory oversight.  And the fact that bankers and their political representatives would fight back has been known literally since Adam (Smith, of course):



Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respects a violation of natural liberty. But these exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments…The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.

Note that he’s talking about the same kind of “party”/firewalls that were violated in the Barclays case.

And note that this time around—unlike after the Great Depression—the folks that blew things up are not slinking away.  They’re asserting that they were right all along and should again be allowed to self-regulate.  And their allies in Congress are right there with them.

Update: See this NYT editorial out this AM on this.  As I note below, the way this worked, traders in the bank asked the folks responsible for setting the Libor to tweak it for them.

“Always happy to help,” one employee wrote in an e-mail after being asked to submit false information. “If you know how to keep a secret, I’ll bring you in on it,” wrote a Barclays trader to a trader at another bank, referring to an attempt to align their strategies for mutual gain.

If that’s not conspiracy and price-fixing, what is?

See also Felix Salmon, who posts a revealing chart showing how out of whack Barclay’s reported interest rates were relative to the others in the daily Libor survey.  The implication here is that this shouldn’t have been hard for regulators to nail were they awake at the wheel…I mean, journalists were writing articles about this years ago (it was also crack journalism that first wrote about the London Whale, btw, the trader who lost all that loot for JPMC).   Must we replace the regulators with some young, hungry muckrakers from BBerg and the WSJ?…I’m for it.

Jared Bernstein joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow. From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Follow his work via Twitter at @econjared and @centeronbudget.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>