Ethics and Libor

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Utilitarian theorists are concerned with the maximizing the overall happiness for majority. According to this school of thought, morality of action is determined by the consequences of ones actions instead of agent’s intentions. Therefore, judging from the Utilitarian perspective, one can argue that Libor rate manipulation did not benefit the society as whole, instead it benefited couple investment banks, and therefore it was not an ethical action. However, how about if those banks actually did not manipulate the Libor rate and went bankrupt during the 2008 crisis, will that benefit the society as a whole? Probably not. We have seen the Lehman Brothers going bankrupt in the US and burden was once again on taxpayers’ shoulders. Therefore, one can question whether or not it would benefit the society as a whole, if Barclays’s or other banks did not manipulate the Libor rate for borrowing?

Furthermore, Kantian approaches this ethical dilemma in a different perspective. Immanuel Kant discusses the categorical imperative in The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals in detail; he says people should not use other as “means” for their own “end.” Furthermore, he adds people should act in a way that can be accepted as a universal law. According Kant, Barclays acted in an unethical way, since there are universally accepted duties that agents should act accordingly. Therefore according to Kantian view, there shouldn’t be any sympathy towards Bob Diamond nor other higher-level executives of Barclays. In the Libor case, judging from the Kantian perspective, one can conclude that others in this case were used as means for investment banks own ends. Adam Smith questions Kantian approach and basis the moral judgment on the sympathy and ignores the reason. According the Smith, we are more likely to find an action ethical, if we can sympathize with the situation. Therefore, one can argue that it is common for majority to find the Libor case unethical, since as a general public...
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