I have to shake my head in disappointment at the headlines this past week in the world of finance and money. It makes me wonder why I even periodically come to the defense of the industry when in weeks like this, it seems like a fruitless exercise. Here’s a tasting of this past week:
1. LIBOR manipulation settlements. LIBOR is the benchmark interest rate that impacts hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of financial contracts. Everything from mortgages, student loans, car loans, derivative contracts, and many others are pegged to LIBOR. LIBOR is calculated daily based on the submissions of some of the largest banks in the world. And, in 2005-2009, it was apparently manipulated by some those contributing banks for their own personal gain. This week, one of the chief offenders, Barclays, reached another settlement with a regulators over their behavior in this period. How is it possible that one of the most important metrics in the global finance industry is manipulated over many years? I guess it’s entirely possible.
2. The stock market is “rigged” – according to author Michael Lewis. His claim is that high frequency traders front-run stock trades all day and every day so that both institutional and retail investors alike pay what amounts to artificially expensive and manipulated prices on routine stock trades. This is apparently legal, for now. But, its potentially wide-ranging impact on the US stock market is coming to light.
3. Alleged IRS corruption hearings proceed. Claims of the IRS abusing power are came back into the forefront this week. This has unfortunately become a purely partisan issue. But, further information about the IRS suggests there’s potentially a bigger issue at hand than even what’s presently going through the House.
4. SAC Capital pays largest insider trading settlement in history. $1.8 billion is what it takes to settle one of the longest running, widest ranging insider trading scandals in history.
So, in one week, the headlines are about THE benchmark interest rate being manipulated for years, the entire stock market being rigged, the largest taxing authority in the US potentially corrupt, and the largest ever insider trading investigation being settled. Clearly, this has not been a proud week for the world of finance. Let’s hope better things are in store next week.