Jan 11 2011

Barclays’ Diamond doesn’t know number of offshore subsidiaries

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

From the FT’s Westminster blog, on Barclays boss Bob Diamond’s appearance before the Treasury Select Committee:

“He claimed not to know how many Barclays subsidiaries are offshore (although Chuka Umunna suggested it was over 300). Nor did he know how much of the tax paid by the bank was via its payroll.”

Good to know he’s on top of the important stuff. Perhaps he’d like to explain just what all those offshore subsidiaries do. And then there’s this, which really sticks in the craw:

Diamond said that the “period of remorse and apology” for banks needs to be over and the City should be allowed to move on.

This is a bit like a hostage-taker getting caught in the act – and then, after having had his details taken down by the police, arguing that it’s time to “move on.”

Whence this financial arrogance? Offshore is a huge part of it. They routinely wield the offshore club “don’t tax or regulate us too much or we’ll move to Singapore” – and cringeing politicians give them what they want. So I’m delighted to see him getting pulled up on this:

“Andrea Leadsom, the MP who used to work for BZW, says Diamond has been talking in “fantasy” speak. The idea that banks will leave Britain is nonsense, she says. “You seem to argue the status quo for its own stake,” she says. “You are in denial about the extent of help you received from governments…”

The City is already getting away with it. Time for people to start understanding the big story – read the final chapter of the UK edition to get it – and start to engage. And then there’s this:

Diamond says 60,000 employees – “it’s really amazing” – do community work. “We give awards each year.”

I remember a presentation by a BP executive at Chatham House, who had been asked to explain what his company was doing in Angola. We were treated to half an hour of photos of smiling children dancing joyfully in water fountains. And almost no mention of what BP is really doing in Angola – producing oil. The audience was as disgusted as I was. Diamond is trying the same thing here. Pass the sick bag, please.

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