H/T to Grants’ Almost Daily,
Last week, a pair of Deutsche Bank AG traders were convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud charges related to the rigging of Libor, the interbank rate which is used to set the value of trillions of dollars of debt instruments around the world.
Reckless and selfish as the defendant’s purported actions may be, their conviction is an opportunity to ponder existential questions. The following is an open-meeting exchange between James Grant and then-Fed Governor Jeremy Stein, as documented in the July 12, 2013 edition of Grant’s:
Q. Good morning, Governor. James Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. Could you help us understand the economic difference – not the legal one, but the economic distinction – between the private manipulation of Libor, on the one hand, and the public manipulation of markets, on the other, doing business as zero interest rate policy, quantitative easing, Operation Twist, the “portfolio balance channel”? What ever did happen to the price mechanism?
A. You know, that’s a hard question for me to answer, because [laughter] I don’t see the connection between these two whatsoever. I mean, obviously, the Libor set – you know, it is a set of criminal and near-criminal activity, which is a very substantial policy concern. A lot of effort is going into trying to, you know, both reform Libor itself, look at other benchmarks, see if they’re more resilient. That’s a whole set of issues. To be frank, I just don’t see the connection to that and the monetary policy side