July 22, 2012

Protesters to college board of trustees: 'Restore Colby's moral compass'

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Protesters at Colby College on Saturday afternoon called on the administration to "restore Colby's moral compass" and demand the resignation of Robert E. Diamond Jr., chairman of the college's board of trustees.

click image to enlarge

PROTEST: Kim Cormier, left, of Benton, and Lucia Robinson, of Whitefield, stand outside the Diamond Building at Colby College on Mayflower Hill Drive calling for chairman of College's Board of Trustees Robert E. Diamond Jr. to resign from the Colby board of trustees and for Colby for remove him from their board and give back Diamond's donations.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Diamond, a 1973 Colby graduate, is at the center of an interest rate-fixing scandal in his role as then-chief executive officer of the British bank Barclays.

Josh Lawrence, of Farmingdale, and Sarah Therrien, of Augusta, said college officials should acknowledge the fact that millions in donations to Colby came from alleged illegal profits to Barclays and, in turn, Diamond.

"They could at least acknowledge that the money they used to build this building (Colby's Diamond Building) was stolen," Lawrence said.

"They should make a public statement and not take money from him again and remove him as the chairman," Therrien added.

London-based news magazine The Economist has reported that employees at Barclays and other banks rigged the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR, the average interest rate estimated by London's leading banks that they would be charged if they had to borrow from other banks.

The magazine said the bank has paid hundreds of millions in fines to American and British regulators, who said the bank staff tried to manipulate LIBOR for profit and to quiet concerns about its own creditworthiness, according to published reports.

A Colby spokesman said earlier this month that the college is "mindful" of Diamond's situation.

"Nothing that's emerged from these stories has changed Bob's relationship with the college," Colby spokesman Michael Kiser said in a story published July 14 in the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal. "He's long, long been a valuable supporter and a great leader for the board of trustees."

More than a dozen protesters displaying placards Saturday outside the Diamond Building had another view of Diamond, described as one of the richest bankers in the world.

Among them were Occupy Augusta and Occupy Bangor activists who said "criminal bankers are still criminals."

"We're very concerned that the college is not addressing the chairman of their board of trustees' illegal activities," 1977 Colby graduate Lewis Kingsbury said. "As recently as July 15, his (chief operating officer), Jerry del Messier, testified before Parliament under oath that he was directed by Bob Diamond to manipulate the Libor interest rates; and that is fraud. It's impacted the entire world, and the college has to address that. They educate the next generation of financial elite in this country."

Kingsbury, an organic farmer who lives in Pittston, said he would like to see the college set up a special committee to address the Diamond question. He said he also would like to see the college ask for Diamond's resignation from the board.

Diamond resigned from Barclays, Britain's second-largest bank, on July 3 under company pressure. He has donated an estimated $14 million to Colby in recent years, according to a published report.

Barclays chairman Marcus Agius, who also is resigning, has said Diamond had "no personal culpability" in the rate-fixing scandal.

Kimberly Cormier, a Benton selectwoman who was among Occupy protesters arrested for criminal trespass last year in Augusta, said she is concerned that Colby is taking donations from Diamond and is not sufficiently distancing itself from the man, the money or the scandal.

"I'm really tired of big business running our country," Cormier said.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

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