The Barclays media operation, currently led by director of media relations Giles Croot, reacted swiftly by announcing Diamond and three other senior executives had decided to forgo their annual bonus.
The bank also published a letter from Diamond to Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury Committee, claiming ‘inappropriate conduct was limited to a small number of people relative to the size of Barclays' trading operations’.
The actions of Diamond and the Barclays comms team were not enough to quell calls for Diamond’s head from sections of the media and politicians including Conservative MPs Steve Baker and Nick De Bois, and former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.
The scandal comes just days before Barclays’ new corporate comms chief Stephen Doherty starts his role. The former Diageo comms chief will become Barclays MD, head of corporate comms, on Monday.
It is thought that Barclays’ retained financial comms agency Brunswick and its boss Alan Parker are also involved in formulating the bank’s comms response.
One senior financial services PR operator noted the importance of Diamond forgoing his bonus, given Diamond’s previous resistance to any suggestion he should voluntarily reduce his remuneration package in the past.
‘Bob Diamond wouldn’t give up his bonus unless he was very worried,’ the source noted. ‘This is really the first time that he has ever shown weakness.’
He added: ‘Until now the Barclays brand has been bullet proof on the high street – the real question now has to be whether this is the thing that will tip it over the edge… Barclays' comms operation will have to give more public face to those who have no connection whatsoever to the scandal - they need to step up their use of those with visibly clean hands.’
While there is no suggestion of individual wrongdoing by Barclays’ senior team, a number of the bank’s top executives were involved in the investment banking division at the time the interest rate manipulation took place.
Barclays is the primary focus of the story at the moment, but pressure on the bank may ease as other institutions become embroiled in the story.
Tim Fallon, managing partner at College Group, noted: ‘This is not just an issue for Barclays, but for the banking industry as a whole. And it feels like this might just be the tip of a very large iceberg.’
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday confirmed that HSBC, RBS, Citigroup and UBS were also under investigation.
Jon McLeod, Weber Shandwick’s chairman of corporate and public affairs, commented: ‘These are going to be difficult times for all banks. Barclays has done the right thing by getting on the front foot and pledging engagement with the Treasury Select Committee, seeking to put into context what is doubtless a complex story. The fact that the bank co-operated with the FSA is a reflection of the absolute need to get a handle on the situation, and that has been reflected in its approach to date.’
Fallon added: ‘Like in any major crisis, you have to demonstrate that you are in control of the issue and that real steps are being put into place to rectify what has gone wrong. You also have to put hands up and say sorry.'
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