Current Comment

Libor Pains

The rate-setting scandal involving the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, has ensnared financial traders on both sides of the Atlantic. Authorities are investigating more than a dozen major banks for allegedly manipulating the rate, which is the benchmark interest rate used for financial transactions worldwide, in order to profit on trades. But special attention should be paid to regulators, who failed to rein in the practice. Officials at the Bank of England reportedly knew about the malfeasance as early as 2007; and in 2008 Timothy Geithner, then at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, sent an e-mail message to Mervyn A. King at the Bank of England urging reform. Mr. King, however, deferred to the British Bankers’ Association, a private group charged with overseeing the rate setting, and both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve lobbied to keep their recommendations anonymous. As a result, nothing was done, and the problem remained unresolved.

The case is another example of the lax regulation of the financial sector. Even in a case of obvious misconduct, the leaders of two major financial institutions were reluctant to “go public” with their knowledge. By deferring to a private banking association, the Bank of England allowed itself to be a pawn of the banking industry rather than a leader of it. Because the matter is so complex, public outrage is likely to be muted. Arrests of individual traders are expected, but a broader and more sustained examination of regulatory procedures is warranted. The scandal is further evidence that the banking industry cannot regulate itself, and that regulatory bodies like the Security and Exchange Commission and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be more robust and better funded.

Love Your Clients

Kevin Doyle was so effective as New York State capital defender that no one was executed, the death penalty was abolished, and his job disappeared. Recently the New York City Bar Association honored him with the Norman Redich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award. Mr. Doyle’s response to the award merits attention because in the current political climate, the dignity of every human life tends to be lost.

In his remarks Mr. Doyle listed motives that inspired death-penalty opponents: the “underdog ethic,” determination to carry on the work of the 1960s civil rights movement, a desire to foster good government. “For some of us,” he added, “it was a matter of religious faith.”

The church over the centuries has had some “pretty awful chapters,” he acknowledged, but “a Catholic understands that every person is made in God’s image—every person black or white, rich or poor, born or unborn, innocent or guilty. And every life must be held sacred from conception to natural death—natural death, death in God’s time, not the state’s.... We brought all different motivations and philosophies, but we shared this in common—we loved our clients unconditionally.”

Loving clients did not mean that defense attorneys infantilized their clients or ignored the grief and suffering they had caused, or that they shied away from difficult choices. It meant they had to earn the trust of these men, “most of whom never had reason to trust anyone.”

Mr. Doyle concluded: “Love your clients. You will be better lawyers and you will be better people—and your cases will turn out better.”

In Corpore Sano

Twenty-one people were treated for burns following their attempt to walk a 10-foot length of hot coals at a recent motivational event that featured Tony Robbins. The ceremony is part of a seminar meant to teach participants that they can overcome any obstacles in life. Approximately 6,000 participants attempted such a feat that day, willingly putting bare skin in contact with coals heated to temperatures ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 degrees in order to prove their mettle and determination.

But the bishops of the United Kingdom and Ireland have suggested an alternative method, perhaps a more productive one, for pushing one’s body to the limit. In celebration of both the London Olympics and the Day for Life on July 29, Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, England, chairman of the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, urged Catholics to look to the training of Olympic athletes for inspiration. He reminded Catholics that “after years of dedicated training, personal sacrifice and daily discipline,” the body can perform “feats that humanly we would think impossible.”

In a world in which many seek instant gratification, these words call to mind Aristotle’s belief that “we are what we repeatedly do.” Character is not built in a single act but over the course of a lifetime. In their statement, the bishops also reminded Catholics to take care of their bodies and to use their bodies to glorify God: “The athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic games…testify that to achieve success in sport requires a harmony between the body, the spirit and the mind brought about through training and discipline.”

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