All I am going to say about this comic, itself, is that I meant to put a few different layers of meaning in here, so feel free to unpack it. It’s not quite so silly as it might initially seem.
It’s inspired by this post on The Baseline Scenario, a blog I follow. In the post, Simon Johnson lists five spurious defenses he’s seen repeatedly for manipulating LIBOR*. I shrunk his first and second into the same one for the middle panel and that’s a super short version of all the real things real bankers are saying about messing with this daily number.
If you’ve heard about LIBOR and don’t think you can understand it, well… it’s really pretty simple, but forget about it. What it is doesn’t matter. Why you should be angry does matter. Here’s all you really need to understand: LIBOR is a number that has been published daily for a very long time and it’s widely viewed as a good benchmark for the whole financial world.
It matters to you because basically every kind of variable rate interest loan on the planet (including credit cards) is pegged to LIBOR (because everyone believed it to be such a reliable number). So if someone artificially forces it up you may be paying more than you should. Nevermind all the other effects it might have on your retirement account, the yield on your savings, your pension – whatever.
LIBOR has been a very powerful number and that’s why knowing something about how it could move is a great way for Bankers to make bets.
And that’s what Bankers do. They don’t “invest.” They make bets.
So that’s why I made this comic. There is no defense for futzing with LIBOR, though I doubt much of anything will be done to the folks who did it. Rich men, I suspect, will remain rich men, though the rate at which they grow their riches may be somewhat retarded.
In other news: I bought a new scanner. I haven’t gotten it home from the office yet, but it’s here. Had I had it, you would have seen this comic with smattering of color, as that’s how I did it. Alas, I need someone to help me get it back here as it is very large. Maybe the next comic will have some color or maybe I will scan it in color and replace this image later? I don’t know.
But no more weirdly photographed comics, provided this new scanner works.
* You will see many news outlets write “LIBOR” as “Libor.” I don’t get it. It’s an acronym for the “London Inter-Bank Offered Rate,” so I write it all caps. Screw The New York Times.
TV: Let's call this hearing on Banker manipulation of LIBOR to order. Gentlemen, proceed.
Panel 2. Four guys in suits, all old white guys, are sitting at another bench saying words.
Guy1: It's not as if lots of banks haven't done it for years.
Guy2: Who does a bit of gaming rates even hurt?
Guy3: If regulators had a problem with our actions they should have cited us.
Guy4: We're only talking about 0.1% on a day here and there. What's it matter.
Panel 3. Same as panel 1.
Other Guy 1: Oh crap. He said a number thing.
Other Guy 2: I totally tuned out.
TV: Maybe you guys could explain it to us again? Perhaps in the form of a YouTube video?
TV: I like the ones with the rainbow kitty.