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By Ray Fleming

PERHAPS when the business of Britain's new press regulations is settled consideration should be given to something similar for the banking business.
Yesterday Barclays was accused of one of the oldest but still unacceptable public relations tricks -- releasing bad or awkward news on a day and at a time that the media's attention will be elsewhere. The “classic” case, of course, was the Whitehall press officer who on 9/11 sent a message to her staff saying, “Today would be a good opportunity to put out any bad news.” Barclays release of news about big bonuses for their senior staff was not quite in that category since the distraction was no more than George Osborne's budget but even so some eyebrows were raised in the City at what appeared to be a deliberate diversionary tactic -- something that Barclays quickly denied.

Given the trouble Barclays has been in over the Libor rate-rigging scandal, it might be expected it would be rather careful about its public behaviour. But in this case nine bankers had been awarded bonuses totalling 38.5 million pounds; among them was Anthony Jenkins who became Chief Executive Officer last year and immediately announced plans for a new regime of “ethical practices”. In a sense this is just another minor misdemeanour -- but why are there so many of them in banking, giving the impression they don't really care what the public thinks?