The Common Good

Former Barclays CEO Feels 'Responsible,' Not 'Culpable'

The WSJ is reporting today on the testimony of Robert Diamond, the recently resigned CEO of Barclay’s before the British Parliament:

"A day after abruptly resigning amid a mushrooming scandal over interest-rate manipulation, former Barclays PLC chief Robert Diamond on Wednesday was assailed by British lawmakers for the bank's actions, in a preview of the scrutiny likely to lie ahead for other big lenders that are under investigation."

What caught my eye in particular, was the WSJ choice of a pull quote from Diamond’s testimony on the front page:

"I don’t feel personal culpability. What I do feel is a strong sense of responsibility."

In other words, he feels that he is somehow accountable for the wrongdoing in his organization but he also does not deserve blame or consequences for what has been done. To see the tenuous nature of his logic you just need to invert the situation.

If Barclays was having a year of record profits would there be any set of possible circumstances in which he would forgo his bonus by saying that while he was responsible for the growth he did not deserve the rewards? If not, why would we buy the argument that while he is ultimately responsible for the company’s wrongdoings he does not deserve the blame and resulting consequences?