Barclays boss backs criminal charges for market manipulation

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Media captionBarclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins speaks to the BBC's Kamal Ahmed about why banks "must be run in the right way"

One of the most remarkable factors to emerge in all the mess of bankers manipulating markets for their own gain, is how little oversight there is - or was - of the major global markets in interest rates, currencies or precious metals.

The traders themselves largely oversaw the rules, such as they were, and policed the system which dealt in markets often worth trillions of pounds.

And we saw where that got us.

Next week, the Financial Conduct Authority will bring an end to such a sorry state of affairs with the announcement of the final rules on the criminalisation of market manipulation.

The regulator's move comes after George Osborne announced proposals last year to make manipulation of markets punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The new rules will come into force on 1 April.

'Criminal sanction'

Today, Antony Jenkins, the chief executive of Barclays, said he backed criminal sanctions not just as a way of regaining some of the rather tattered public trust in banking, but also as a way of reassuring investors that banks have changed.

"I do agree with that [that it should be a criminal offence]," he told me.

"I think that is a very important component of this system that needs to be put in place.

"Let me be clear, banks have to run themselves in the right way - and that's my responsibility and the responsibility of all my colleagues here at Barclays.

"As part of that you have to get the culture right, you have to get the control systems right.

"But I also think that having that criminal sanction would be helpful in ensuring that the City of London delivers for all of its shareholders."

In the morning conference call on Barclays annual results (which you can read about here), Mr Jenkins used a rather odd word when considering how he felt about past misconduct issues which are still weighing heavily on the balance sheet.

He said he felt "frustrated".

'Very angry'

Having spoken to Mr Jenkins privately on issues such as foreign exchange manipulation, I know that it goes further than "frustration".

And, yes, he admitted to me in my interview today, anger was a better description.

"I have to say that it is possible to get very angry about these matters, about what you see happening," he said.

"I'm not going to talk specifically about any of these investigations [into foreign exchange manipulation] specifically for reasons you will understand.

"But as a general point, if you look at the history of these conduct issues they have been very bad for the industry, very bad for shareholders and very bad for customers.

"It's just not acceptable and I think people need to express frustration - but more than that they need to do something about it - and that's what we're doing at Barclays."

He said culture change was happening, but there was still a long way to go on what he argued was a "five to 10 year" journey.

And given that Mr Jenkins started as chief executive in 2012, that could mean it will be 2022 before Barclays has wholly changed.

Compliance and misconduct

He said just as important was the "policing function" within the organisation. And by that he means the battalions of new compliance officers banks have hired to enforce regulations put in place since the financial crisis.

But, if an organisation is simply too big to manage, it doesn't matter how good your compliance is, misconduct will happen.

Just look at HSBC.

"I don't necessarily think size is the issue," Mr Jenkins said. Culture, leadership and controls should work, whatever the size of the bank, he argued.

Regulators will be watching closely.

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