LONDON -- When a company gets into troubled waters, what investors want to see is a firm hand at the tiller and a clear route through to calmer seas. But that's exactly what is lacking at Barclays
When the LIBOR scandal broke, we witnessed much wringing of hands from chief executive Bob Diamond, who famously sent a lengthy letter to the bank's staff telling them how he was going to clean up the operation. He insisted he was not going to resign, apparently believing that he was the right man to steer the bank away from the rocks.
But barely a week later, on July 3, we heard that Diamond had resigned -- after what is widely seen as a fair bit of pressure from the Financial Services Authority and Sir Mervyn King of the Bank of England.
Chief operating officer Jerry del Missier also stepped down, leaving the running of the company in the hands of chairman Marcus Agius. But, um, hang on -- he had already resigned the day before. He then had to delay his departure until the search for a new chief is concluded.
Other banks also fell under the scrutiny of the LIBOR investigation, including Royal Bank of Scotland, which had already sacked some staff suspected of being involved, Lloyds Banking Group, Citigroup in the U.S., and Germany's Deutsche Bank. But at least they haven't followed it with utter confusion in their board rooms. And it continues...
Nobody wants it!
We now hear that the favorite to land the chairman's job, current deputy Sir Michael Rake, has snubbed the poisoned chalice after large shareholders made it clear they want someone from outside -- and he must be exhausted from all the work he does as chairman of easyJet and BT Group, anyway. So even Agius' shoes remain empty.
The current hot tips for the top two jobs are former cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell for chairman, and Bill Winters, previously of JPMorgan, for chief executive. But nobody has any clue whether they want them.
And it could all be up in the air again after the bank hired ex-lawyer and investment banker Anthony Salz to head up a review of its corporate culture in order to determine how it needs to change -- bringing us back to what Bob Diamond was promising almost a month ago.
It's anybody's guess who will be in charge this time next month.
Did you buy any shares?
But one thing I am sure of is that it was a wise investor indeed who foresaw the deep problems at the heart of our banking industry and stayed clear of the sector. One who managed to do just that was Neil Woodford, head of Invesco Perpetual, whose funds were clear of bank shares when the credit crunch hit -- and that has helped him to beat the FTSE 100 over periods of five, 10, and 15 years.
If you want to find out what Woodford has been investing in instead, grab yourself a copy of the free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor," in which we've analyzed the 20 billion pound portfolio of the legendary City fund manager. Click here to get your copy while it's still available and free.
And if you fancy a change of career, it sounds like Barclays has some vacancies.
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