In the business of slapstick comedy, it is often the rescue bid that goes wrong. Desperate attempts to alleviate a crisis — be it the cat up a tree, the unstoppable conveyor belt of custard pies, the row of spinning plates -— typically meet with the most calamitous of outcomes. And in the unfunniest sector of business, it seems the same is true. Barclays’s attempts to avoid a state rescue during the financial crisis — with a Qatari conveyor belt of cash and no little spin — have belatedly met with criminal charges. Most tragi-comically, though, the decision by the Serious Fraud Office to include former boss John Varley on the charge sheet means the only high-profile CEO to face prosecution for the events of 2007-08 will do so not for bringing down a bank — but trying to save one. Apart from the CEOs of the Bank of the Commonwealth in Virginia, and of Landsbankinn, Glitnir and Kaupthing in Iceland, no other bank bosses have faced a criminal charge relating to their roles in the globa...

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