Follow-up Friday: Many LIBOR Liars, One Conviction

Waiting since 2012 with baited breath for the outcome of the LIBOR scandal investigations.

Photo credit: John Gapper axce3q7cqaewfe7

     Being economically illiterate has its consequences. Those lowest on the totem pole will take the hardest hit. Mish’s Global Economic Analysis

In 2009, twenty-nine-year-old Tom Hayes was making £325,000 (about $500,000 in 2009 dollars) a year at Swiss Bank UBS. His reputation as a super trader caught the attention of Citibank head hunters, who lured him across the Atlantic and paid him £3.5 million for nine months’ work ($5.25 million).

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Yours for only $19.95 from Walmart.

Pretty good for a math nerd who used his childhood superhero bedspread until he was twenty-four, and was known by his colleagues as “Tommy Chocolate” because he preferred cocoa to beer.

Then Citibank fired him.

Turns out Mr. Hayes was the ringleader in a cabal of traders who were rigging interest rates. But — was it just Tom Hayes and the traders, or did everybody know, right up to the CEOs?

This month, Hayes was the first person to be convicted of manipulating the London interbank offering rates (LIBOR) for profit. He was found guilty on eight counts of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to fourteen years.

     If you aint cheating, you aint trying. Trader at Barclay’s

Happy ending for the rest of us?

Bring out the toothpicks and prop up your eyelids. This is soporific, but we must try to understand.

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Zzzz … (Photo credit Mark Engelbrecht)

Why it matters: LIBOR is what banks charge each other for loans. Businesses and governments everywhere rely on it to set their own rates on loans, mortgages, and derivatives, and it affects ordinary people investing in houses, paying student loans, car and mortgage loans, even tourists buying foreign currencies on vacation.

The crime: bankers and traders placing bets, then rigging interest rates so that they won their bets.

             It’s just amazing how libor fixing can make you that much money. (Quote by a trader)

What’s happened since?

(1) Lawsuits are pending.

(2) Oversight of LIBOR has been instituted.

(3) UBS AG, pled guilty in the US to manipulating the LIBOR and paid $203 million. Four other banks – Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC, The Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS AG – pled guilty to felony charges in a related case for manipulating the price of U.S. dollars and euros (FX). The fine: over $2.5 billion. Seven banks have been fined over $10 billion in Europe and the United States.

Missing? The big boys.

  • Robert Diamond, fired from Barclays for his role in the scandal: founded a new bank.
  • Fred Goodwin, aka Fred the Shred, head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has been fined millions: enjoys a generous, taxpayer-funded pension.
  • Andy Hornby, who presided over the collapse of the HBOS: thriving as head of a betting empire. 
  • Panagiotis Koutsogiannis, aka Pete the Greek, a manager of UBS who chat-messaged Hayes about fixing rates: will not be prosecuted.
  • Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, described as “grossly incompetent” by the head of the Tory party for his involvement in the LIBOR scandal: Head of Bank of America’s European business. 
  • Citibank, Haye’s boss for a year (they fired him when the LIBOR scandal began to boil) and the biggest LIBOR liarNone of Citibank’s higher ups are under scrutiny. 

Hayes has been diagnosed with autism, and didn’t have to sit in the docket during the trial. He was accompanied by an aide who calmed him when he got upset and waved his arms around. He and his wife cried at the sentencing. In his defense, he said:

  • “The practice [of fixing rates] was tried and tested, it was so endemic within the bank (UBS), I just thought … this can’t be a big issue because everybody knows about it … (it was) such an open secret.”
  • “I was very, very, very open, very transparent … All my managers knew. I had no reason to think that it was wrong.”
  • He wasn’t motivated by money, but wanted “to do my job as perfectly as I could do it.”

Perfect? Maybe for the big boys.

Sea Life and how to make a GIF in two easy steps

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Beneath Your Feet.”

You know those five-second videos that loop endlessly? They used to make me crazy because they caused my first laptop to overheat.

Well …

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Gull goes wild for something underfoot. Whatever it is, it must be good.

Want a looping video of your own? It’s easy. As one expert put it “even a Mom can do it.” It’s true.

The format is called GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, pronounced “jiff.” It compresses images and videos so they take almost no time to transfer from one site to another.

How to do it: (1) Download one of the free apps — I used “Gifrocket“–  drag it to the desktop. (2) Drag your short video into the box where indicated.

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Bing! Within seconds a looping gif file appears on the desktop. Not amazing quality, but fine for the average blogger, twitterer, redditer. If you want fancy, you’ll need to learn to use Photoshop.

And now, after all that frenetic bird activity, visual relief. Hello sea anemones.

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Amazing how two centimeters of water turns a slime doughnut into a temptress.

So lovely. So benign. A Venus Flytrap has nothing on these babies. Ulp.


Happy GIF-ing. And watch your step.

Apologies to those whose old laptops are overheating.

Fine Print: Take three steps before you “Agree” to Terms of Service

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Inspiration.”

An inspiring reading of the opening of iTune’s user agreement:

(Or click here.)

Do you read Terms of Use before downloading apps and updates?

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Yep. Read every word.

If not, you’re not alone. One company hid a clause in its license agreement promising a thousand dollars to the first person to find it and contact them. Three thousand downloads and four months later, someone finally claimed the prize.

The iTunes agreement is fifty eight snoring pages long. PayPal? Longer than Romeo and Juliet. To read the fine print in privacy agreements that most of us agree to each year (forget Terms of Service Agreements, End User License Agreements and Licensing Contracts), it would take a month. So, we don’t.

Does it matter? Maybe.

What’s in there:

1. If anything goes wrong it’s not the company’s fault. 

Take WordPress, the application that hosts my blog.

Limitation of Liability. In no event will Automattic, or its suppliers or licensors, be liable with respect to any subject matter of this agreement under any contract, negligence, strict liability or other legal or equitable theory for:  …  interruption of use or loss or corruption of data …    Item 18, WordPress “Terms of Service.”

Translation: If my blog posts disappear, it’s not WordPress’s fault and they are under no obligation to recover them.

2. Definitions. Property law, statutes of limitations and other such language. For instance, as iTunes agreement explains, when you buy a song you don’t own the music any more than you own the words in The Sorcerer’s Stone. You have a right to play the music, on certain devices. That’s it.

3. Privacy Agreement. You agree to be tracked online, in exchange for whatever is on offer — template, article, software update, game. Also explains how your privacy is protected, but hackers can get into just about anything. So can the CIA.

WHAT TO DO:

Most of the language is as benign as it is mind-numbing, but to avoid losing data, getting ripped off or getting your computer gummed up with spyware, take these three steps:

(1) See if someone else has summarized/condensed the agreement in plain English. Useful resources: “ToS:DR” (Terms of Service: Didn’t Read), rates and lists key features of agreements for many companies. Here’s a summary of iTunes’ terms (a little dated, but still shows highlights). Here’s a warning that PayPal may be tricking customers. 

(2) Watch out for sites you’ve never heard of. If it’s a scam, someone has probably written about it online, so take time to research.

(3) Don’t leave your credit card number, or a large balance that can be drawn from. Don’t give out your Social Security number, ever, to anyone other than the IRS.

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Photo Credit: HubSpot at Flickr.com

Still not inspired? Take it away, South Park:

Tech for Troglodytes — Four Steps to Add Accents and Foreign Symbols on a Mac

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Troglodyte: A person regarded as ignorant or old fashioned. A person who lives in a cave.

How to add accents or other diacritical marks to your text (for Mac users): In our multicultural world, it is not OK to pretend that resume is the same as resumé, or a souffle is a soufflé. But how to remember those blasted keyboard shortcuts? Pay no heed to the experts who tell you to do things like change the language on your keyboard, or use HTML code. Remember the word OPTION.** Option, as in it’s not an option to leave out punctuation, even foreign punctuation. Pushing the OPTION key simultaneously with the letter needing needing augmentation will often provide the symbol or mark you want: Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.43.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.48.00 PM This works with å, é, î, ø, ü and ñ.

4. If “option” doesn’t do it, go to a website like this for Spanish, or this for French. Type what you want, then copy and paste the text into your blog or document.  Voilà.

**P.S. Not all keyboards have an option key. For some it is the “Alt” key, or a symbol which looks like this:
220px-Third-party_option_key

Follow-up Friday: Vanuatu and Hurricane Pam

Some of you were kind enough to leave sympathetic comments in March when the island nation where our daughter is volunteering for the Peace Corps was hit by a Category 5 hurricane.

New crops are in and the capital is undergoing reconstruction.

Dare you to sit still watching this.

(If the link doesn’t work, try this.)