"Uncomfortable reading": 7 key extracts from the Salz report into Barclays' culture

"A few investment bankers seemed to lose a sense of proportion and humility".

The Salz Review-  a report into Barclays' cultural shortcomings post libor scandal - makes for "uncomfortable reading", according to the bank's current CEO. He's not wrong. Here are some key extracts (emphasis mine throughout):

The report suggests that if there were company values at Barclays, no-one knew about them:

We believe that the business practices for which Barclays has rightly been criticised were shaped predominantly by its cultures, which rested on uncertain foundations. There was no sense of common purpose in a group that had grown and diversified significantly in less than two decades. And across the whole bank, there were no clearly articulated and understood shared valuesso there could hardly be much consensus among employees as to what the values were and what should guide everyday behaviours. And as a result there was no consistency to the development of a desired culture.

HR wasn't given enough power:

At Barclays, HR at times appears to have been seen more as an administrative function required to satisfy business needs. Although Bob Diamond, on becoming President, also took on responsibility for Group Talent, the heads of HR were typically on neither the Group nor divisional Executive Committees. HR appears accordingly to have found it difficult to exercise an appropriate level of challenge to the businesses on some people-related issues. Heads of HR were not given the authority to push sufficiently for the heads of business units to reflect desired behaviours in a variety of matters, such as promotion decisions, performance reviews, or remuneration. Given the decentralised model, it was especially difficult for the Group Head of HR to have appropriate influence within the investment bank.

The law wasn't given enough power:

The institutional cleverness ... stretched relationships with regulators and resulted in them and the market questioning some of Barclays’ financial information. Barclays was sometimes perceived as being within the letter of the law but not within its spirit.

Cash > people:

At Barclays, pay was emphasised above any other aspect of people management (see Section 11). In addition, rather than being seen as a means of driving culture, people management was considered predominantly as a tool to increase business performance. Moreover, the people management processes seemed to us to be loosely linked, resulting in different, and sometimes conflicting, messages.

And maybe paying investment bankers too much had turned them all into bastards:

Most but not all of the pay issues concern the investment bank. To some extent, they reflect the inevitable consequences of determinedly building that business – by hiring the best talent in a highly competitive international market (and during a bubble period) – into one of the leading investment banks in the world. The levels of pay (except at the most senior levels) were generally a response to the market. Nevertheless, based on our interviews, we could not avoid concluding that pay contributed significantly to a sense among a few that they were somehow unaffected by the ordinary rules. A few investment bankers seemed to lose a sense of proportion and humility.

..or was it that paying investment bankers too much had merely attracted bastards?

Elevated pay levels inevitably distort culture, tending to attract people who measure their personal success principally on compensation. Our review indicates that this was the case in the investment bank, with many interviewees reporting a sense of an entitlement culture.

Well whichever it was, this doesn't reflect well on the bank’s top 70 executives, who were paid, according to the report  “consistently and significantly above the median compared to peer banks”.

The report concludes:

If Barclays is to achieve a material improvement in its reputation, it will need to continue to make changes to its top levels of pay so as to reflect talent and contribution more realistically, and in ways that mean something to the general public.

Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

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Why the Psychoactive Substances Act is much better than anyone will admit

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess for their own consumption recreational drugs too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

From Thursday, it may be illegal for churches to use incense. They should be safe from prosecution though, because, as the policing minister was forced to clarify, the mind-altering effects of holy smells aren’t the intended target of the Psychoactive Substances Act, which comes into force this week.

Incense-wafters aren’t the only ones wondering whether they will be criminalised by the Act. Its loose definition of psychoactive substances has been ridiculed for apparently banning, among other things, flowers, perfume and vaping.

Anyone writing about drugs can save time by creating a shortcut to insert the words “the government has ignored its advisors” and this Act was no exception. The advisory council repeatedly warned the government that its definition would both ban things that it didn’t mean to prohibit and could, at the same time, be unenforcable. You can guess how much difference these interventions made.

But, bad though the definition is – not a small problem when the entire law rests on it – the Act is actually much better than is usually admitted.

Under the law, it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess, for their own consumption, recreational drugs that are considered too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

That sounds like a mess, and it is. But it’s a mess that many reformers have long advocated for other drugs. Portugal decriminalised drug possession in 2001 while keeping supply illegal, and its approach is well-regarded by reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, who pledged to adopt this model in their last manifesto.

This fudge is the best option out of what was politically possible for dealing with what, until this week, were called legal highs.

Before the Act, high-street shops were free to display new drugs in their windows. With 335 head shops in the UK, the drugs were visible in everyday places – giving the impression that they couldn’t be that dangerous. As far as the data can be trusted, it’s likely that dozens of people are now dying each year after taking the drugs.

Since legal highs were being openly sold and people were thought to be dying from them, it was obvious that the government would have to act. Until it did, every death would be blamed on its inaction, even if the death rate for users of some newly banned drugs may be lower than it is for those who take part in still-legal activities like football. The only question was what the government would do.

The most exciting option would have been for it to incentivise manufacturers to come up with mind-altering drugs that are safe to take. New Zealand is allowing drug makers to run trials of psychoactive drugs, which could eventually – if proved safe enough – be sold legally. One day, this might change the world of drug-taking, but this kind of excitement was never going to appeal to Theresa May’s Home Office.

What was far more plausible was that the government would decide to treat new drugs like old ones. Just as anyone caught with cocaine or ecstasy faces a criminal record, so users of new drugs could have been hit with the same. This was how legal highs have been treated up until now when one was considered serious enough to require a ban.

But instead, the government has recognised that its aim – getting new drugs out of high-street shop windows so they don’t seem so normal – didn’t depend on criminalising users. A similar law in Ireland achieved precisely this. To its credit, the government realised it would be disproportionate to make it a criminal offence to possess the now-illegal highs.

The reality of the law will look chaotic. Users will still be able to buy new drugs online – which could open them to prosecution for import – and the law will do nothing to make drugs any safer. Some users might now be exposed to dealers who also want to sell them more dangerous other drugs. There will be few prosecutions and some head shop owners might try to pick holes in the law: the government seems to have recognised that it needed a better definition to have any chance of making the law stick.

But, most importantly for those of us who think the UK’s drug laws should be better at reducing the damage drugs cause, the government, for the first time, has decided that a class of recreational drugs are too dangerous to be sold but that it shouldn’t be a crime to possess them. The pressure on the government to act on legal highs has been relieved, without ordinary users being criminalised. For all the problems with the new law, it’s a step in the right direction.

Leo Barasi is a former Head of Communications at the UK Drug Policy Commission. He writes in a personal capacity