The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History is our latest review of Business Insider's Best Business Books of 2017. Written by financial journalist David Enrich, the book is the story of the Libor scandal and those who perpetrated that fraud against the world. It's also an exploration of exactly how crappy humans can be to each other when money is involved and what happens when industries operate without accountability.
Sounds like a warm and fuzzy tale, eh?
I - Dr. Donnelly - had trouble with this book at times and I'd be remiss to not admit that. The world of high finance and banking is not a world I am particularly fluent in and so I had to pause a lot and make sure I was following his narrative. If this is a world you are used to, then this book will fly for you. The narrative is gripping; I just had to make sure I had the map right in my head.
For those unaware, Libor was a rate that determined how much banks could charge each other to borrow money from each other. Unlike federal interest rates to consumers, which were fixed by outside regulatory bodies, Libor was determined by the banks themselves, through an organization called BBA, which was essentially like the Fraternal Order of Bankers. (The Guardian's long form about it is a good place to start, if you're new to it all.)
I'm sure you see where this is going.
Of course it was manipulated to make people money.
Of course people made a ton of money off others using it, but no one had a problem until it all went public.
I can absolutely see why this book is one of Business Insider's must reads of the year. Anyone interested in business should be aware of global markets and the scandals that have plagued them over the past few decades. We should all know our history and the patterns of behavior that have gotten us to where we are, as a society in general and specific industries.
However, once my cloud of anger cleared at the idea of these lads running roughshod over the rest of us just because they could, I realized the most pertinent lesson that small business owners can learn is one of accountability.
There's a difference between discretion and secret-keeping. Leadership requires discretion, but if you're leaning hard into secrecy then - to quote Whoopi - you in danger, girl.
Make sure the person who keeps your books is not the only person with eyes on the books. Ensure that personnel decisions are made by more than one or two people. Get input from others on things like strategic planning. Be clear about goals and who is responsible for achieving them. Encourage accountability as a sign of health, not a sign of snitching. If your folks don't know the difference, then that's on you.
While your company's secrets may not be responsible for the collapse of the global market, it could be responsible for the collapse of someone's livelihoods or the collapse of your business. Accountability is a key marker of success; don't ignore it.