Mitt Loves N.Y., Special Edition: Bob Diamond


In a special edition of ‘Mitt Loves N.Y.,’  we are taking our coverage overseas to report on an event that almost happened. It was a story that, thankfully for Mitt, went ignored for the most part by the lamestream media.
With a tip-off from the Voice’s Steven Thrasher, we stumbled across a little dinner that the Romney’s had put together with a plate price tag of $75,000. But here’s the strange part: it was in London… during the Olympics (the family will already be there to support Ann’s $77,000 horse, Rafalca, who is running with the U.S. equestrian team).

Now, Presidential fundraising abroad is not exactly unusual: in 2008, Rudy Giuliani, Candidate Obama and Bill Clinton all had donor get-togethers in other countries. Even this past Fourth of July, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior adviser, had a big ticket event for the President in Paris. One must remember that only U.S.-born citizens can contribute to elections, according to the FEC. The dinners mentioned above were targeted at U.S. ex-pats, who still can technically donate to a campaign.

As we have seen repeatedly in our series, the SuperPACs do not abide by civil law: the organizations live by their own rules; a set of windy provisions that are unclear due to the ambiguous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. And, for that reason, it was reported in February that about 6.4 percent of donations to the major SuperPACs were from unknown and untraceable sources.

Except, for this now-revoked dinner invitation, the source of cash was absolutely clear. The maitre’d’s name was Bob Diamond and, as of this past Tuesday, he is resigning from the CEO position of Barclays due to a Parliamentary investigation into the bank’s bogus lending practices and fixed interest rates. And so the story begins.

Since being instated on Jan. 1, 2011, Bobby D. had one mission as the CEO of Barclays: to expand its investment banking sector into a major player of the global market. Unfortunately, as with many other well-known Wall Street stories, high ambitions are chock full of loopholes. In other words, him and his team of profiteers didn’t exactly use the most legal means to get to the top. And it landed them with a record-breaking $455 million fine from the Financial Services Authority last month. So what exactly did they do wrong?

The whole controversy surrounding Diamond’s shameful step-down is based on a little something called the LIBOR, which is the London Interbank Offered Rate – the amount of interest set by the British Bankers’ Association that enables banks to borrow funds.

In order to comfort traders, increase profits and act as if the bank was performing up to par, Diamond and Co. tweaked their LIBOR submissions, thereby manipulating the interest rates to their advantage. And, as Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone reports, the LIBOR submissions are worth up to around $10 trillion in loans. That’s a lot of money to be fucking around with.

Along with the fact that many other banks were involved, it is evident what a huge shit show this is. Diamond and other top figures will be under intense scrutiny in Parliament – a legislative body that, in comparison to Congress’s hearings on anything financial, actually comes off as a functioning guardian of the law. Once the other banks are reprimanded, a domino effect will occur, possibly leading to trials of interest rate manipulation on this side of the pond.

Yes, the crimes of Wall Street have been globalized; the term ‘loophole’ can be translated into many other languages and that’s a damn shame. But that’s not why it is important in our case.

We are here to zoom in on the expensive (and presumably, well-planned) dinner for Mitt with Bob Diamond as its host. It is one thing when we profile the major donors of Restore Our Future and see that their excessive lifestyles of wealth and luxury may not exactly be the most moral but this is different: Diamond actually was caught doing something extremely legal.

This is the closest Mitt has come to the fire of his financially intertwined past (unless we choose to overlook the fact that John Paulson is a main bankroller of Restore Our Future – a man who robbed the housing market blind and the only thing us New Yorkers got was an auditorium in NYU’s Stern School of Business.) And it is no surprise that Romney cancelled the dinner event immediately; just months before November, the last thing his campaign needs is a blatant connection to a story like this. But, the idea that the dinner existed, even after the $455 million fine was thrown on Diamond’s company, is enough for us.

You know, it’s one of the saddest realities in our democracies to see anyone running for the most powerful throne in the world in bed with the bad guys. But, it’s even more sad that we actually know about.

Tune in next week for another installment of “Mitt Loves N.Y.” Another week, another donor. Democracy can really hurt sometimes.