BARCLAYS chairman Marcus Agius confirmed he will quit today over the rate-rigging banking scandal.

His exit will pile fresh pressure on chief exec Bob Diamond to resign too.

Mr Agius, 65, was forced to fall on his sword as pressure grows for a criminal probe into Libor rate fixing between banks.

He said: “As chairman, I am the ultimate guardian of the bank’s reputation. Accordingly, the buck stops with me and I must acknowledge responsibility by standing aside.”

He added: “It goes without saying that Barclays will continue to have my wholehearted support in the future.”

Meanwhile it has emerged that Barclays cut key lending rates after a call between Bob Diamond and a Bank of England chief.

Mr Diamond, then boss of Barclays Capital, spoke on the phone to deputy governor Paul Tucker.

They discussed the high Libor rates Barclays were paying to borrow cash. Later on the day of the call — October 29, 2008 — Barclays traders were told to reduce their rates.

The Financial Services Authority said a “misunderstanding” at Barclays meant managers “mistakenly” believed the Bank of England had given them the green light for the cut.

The revelation dragging the Bank into the rate-rigging scandal came as it was revealed chairman Agius will quit.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said: “He was first in the firing line as far as shareholders were concerned.”

Mr Agius continued this morning: “This has been a period of unprecedented stress and turmoil for the banking industry in particular and for the wider world economy in general.”

He added: “I am truly sorry that our customers, clients, employees and shareholders have been let down. Barclays is full of hard-working, talented individuals whose integrity is not in question.”

Mr Agius said: “Last week’s events – evidencing as they do unacceptable standards of behaviour within the bank – have dealt a devastating blow to Barclays reputation.”

The decision by Mr Agius — whose banking career spanned 40 years — has piled more pressure on chief exec Mr Diamond to quit.

He will be grilled by MPs on Wednesday — a day before his former boss.

Sources last night tipped former accountant Sir Michael Rake to be new Barclays chairman.

Taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland — already being probed — has sacked four traders over rate-fixing, it emerged last night.

They were named as Andrew Hamilton, Neil Danziger, Paul White and Tan Chi Min.

But Min, former head of delta trading for RBS’s global banking and markets division in Singapore, alleges bosses colluded with staff to set the Libor rate artificially.

As the scandal deepened, Business Secretary Vince Cable called for a criminal investigation into rigging.

He said: “The public can’t understand why people are thrown into jail for petty theft and these guys walk away having perpetrated what looks like conspiracy”.

He added that the Serious Fraud Office is having a “fresh look” at allegations.

FSA chairman Lord Turner said regulation powers might have to be strengthened “considerably”.

Savers head to ethical banks

A CAMPAIGN to encourage ethical banking which has seen ten million customers switch accounts in the US is now taking off here.

A group called moveyourmoney.co.uk was set up two months ago to help disgruntled savers vote with their feet.

And following the Barclays rate-fixing scandal and the computer meltdown at NatWest, it has been deluged with requests for advice.

Around 8,000 people have moved their cash thanks to the site.

Ethical banking

Spokesman Louis Brooke said: “It’s not just your usual ethical consumers. We have seen a three or four-fold increase in interest since NatWest and Barclays.”

Ethical Consumer magazine and website also tries to guide readers in the right direction by ranking banks and buildings societies on moral behaviour.

They are scored on paying taxes on time, customer relations, consideration for the environment, animal welfare and human rights.

Editor Rob Harrison believes local building societies are a more moral and customer-friendly option.

He said: “They have got to, by law, hold 75 per cent of their equity in residential properties so they can’t really get into the so-called casino banking. And they tend to invest in local businesses.”

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