Barclays is not the problem

Barclays is a problem, no doubt. But it is not the problem. The problem is not a few cowboys, it’s the whole damn rodeo.

Speaking with a friend who’s worked on nuclear anti-proliferation strategy on Saturday, I was struck by the contrast he drew between approaches to and expectations surrounding government regulation in both areas.

Given nuclear technology’s tremendous potential for colossal harm it’s a no-brainer that stringent regulation, frequent spot-checks and the limitating of access to rigorously trained and qualified personnel are the rules of the road.

Moreover, ‘war-gaming’ of “tail” risks is mandatory and under constant review; even if things seem okay, all involved are hard-wired to understand the awesome responsibility not to screw up and to behave with prudence, restraint and care.

Planet Finance – as Niall Ferguson’s fine book rightly depicted the scale and other-worldly (i.e. ridiculous) sense of risk-assessment that characterizes this industry – by contrast? Restrain? Regulation? Bigger, faster, more is the only code they have.

Even now.

These guys don’t even know what’s on their own books. Mad? Not half as crazy as it not being illegal to maintain such books. Or as the remaining reality that you and me will bail them, again, when they crash again. And they will.

Strategic Communications Consultant, located Washington DC