Posted by: Dr Churchill | August 14, 2012

Banker Ethics: ‘Honesty, integrity and plain dealing’

How the mighty have fallen.

The three top Barclay bosses resigned after the bank was found to have rigged one of the most crucial interest rates in global finance.

The fury unleashed reached fever pitch when Bob Diamond, the bank’s newly-resigned CEO, was questioned by parliamentarians about his role in the scandal. Diamond offered an apology but the decibels dipped only when John Mann MP asked: ‘I…wonder, Mr Diamond, if you could remind me of the three founding principles of the Quakers who set up Barclays?’. ‘I can’t, sir’, spluttered the abashed Diamond…

‘Honesty, integrity and plain dealing’, the MP snapped back.

Despite his acrimony, Mann was right. While the trinity of virtues he cited may have failed to feature in Bob Diamond’s modern Barclays apology, it does feature in Barclay’s Apology – a book first published in English in 1678 by the Scottish Quaker, Robert Barclay. The full title was An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, and it had a formative influence on the development of business ethics in the global economy. It was full of conscience and the belief that conscience is not inimical to business. As a matter of fact it is key to good sensible business…

So too are some documents known as the Westminster Standards, that were disseminated widely following an assembly involving around 120 theologians held at Westminster Abbey in London from 1643 to 1649. They had a profound influence amongst Protestants, including entrepreneurs seeking brighter futures in the New World. And in some ways these ethics shaped the morals of New York’s early financial community and the titans of Wall Street in yester year New York — nee New Amsterddam.

All that is history by now, but Mann’s interrogation of Bob Diamond of Barklays, raises the question how such seemingly outdated documents may be relevant to today’s global economy. Exactly this question is being addressed by an initiative involving a growing international circle of scholars and business leaders. They take an even older standard – the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue – and ask what light is thrown on them by the Westminster divines that can help reform business and banking today.

They must be on to something. For had the dealers in Barclays observed the Decalogue’s prohibition against lying and stealing, rate rigging would have been avoided. As it is, the bank has incurred a hefty fine, a loss of trust, a leadership vacuum, and the prospect of criminal prosecution.

Against this background, the legacy of the Quaker and Westminster Protestants testifies to the importance not only of regulation but of conscience in ensuring equitable trade; and to the fact that the dictates of conscience are not as inimical to business as is often assumed. Barclay’s original Apology, had it been heeded, would have prevented the misdeeds behind the modern Barclays’ apology as offered by Bob Diamond today.

This is how our friend Peter Heslam saw the lack of Morality and the failed Apology of Barklays last “king” Bob Diamond, towards the people.



None the less, more apologies are coming from errant banker wankers…

‘Honesty, integrity and plain dealing’

Good Words to live by…

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