Banks Lowballing Interest Rates

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, July 6, 2012

OPINION: REVIEW & OUTLOOK:  Barclay’s Bank Bash

Apparently, large banks “on both sides of the Atlantic were not accurately reporting the rates at which they were able to borrow from other banks…large banks to make themselves appear healthier than they were, claimed to be able to borrow at rates lower than the market was offering them…A 2008 phone call from a Bank of England official was interpreted by one senior Barclays official as encouraging the bank to low-ball its reported rate.”

New York Times, Editorials/Letters, Friday, July 6, 2012

Bank Scandal Deepens

…”On Wednesday, the deposed chief executive of Barclays, Robert Diamond Jr., presented documents and testimony to a British parliamentary committee, saying it had advised both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York about low-balled interest rates by banks across Wall Street.  

Here the idioms to low-ball (verb)  and low-balled (adjective) interest rates are being used in possible bank regulatory offences. The definition of to low-ball something is to underestimate or understate (a cost) deliberately.  It is used most commonly by stating offers as low-ball offers on perhaps a property or business transaction.  The game of poker has lowball poker games that reward low poker hands.  Early railroad signals used balls to indicate whether the train should stop or not.  A lowered ball was the signal to stop.


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