Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Taking on the culprits

Alan Beattie writing in the FT on 3rd September 2011 discussing the Italian state finances says: " Mr Berlusconi's plans rely heavily on better tax collection, a wearyingly familiar magic pony traditionally brought out when more substantive fiscal measures have been discarded.". In the USA the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is preparing to sue some of the biggest US & European Banks over their role in the 'securitised mortgages' disaster. The FT Editorial (3rd Sep) sees this as welcome. They state " The perception that Banks have walked away from their pre-crisis incompetence ( to use a generous word) in loan origination and bundling is justified. Moral hazard helped cause the meltdown. Institutions must be held accountable for errors & malpractice". Strong stuff from such a source.

What is the response? According to Mark Kleinman writing in the same edition of the FT individuals such as the Chairmen of BP; Rio Tinto; Unilever; Bob Diamond CEO of Barclays Bank; the CEO's of Lloyds & Santander ( and no doubt others) have been having assorted meetings with Cameron & Osborne warning of the dire consequences of implementing what is believed to be in the Independent Commission (IBC) report. Kleinman doesn't specifically use the word 'threats' but you don't have to be a genius to suspect the drift.

Meanwhile in the fine print of 'Project Merlin' which was the deal that the Banks struck with the Government about, amongst other things, lending to small business. there is the loophole that the reported lending to business - which is on target, ignores the money which the Banks claw back from businesses that are repaying their debts. If you take that into account the amount the Banks are lending to stimulate the economy is way below what it should be. Banks claim that is because there is little demand from business. That has to go down as one of the most untruthful statements of the century so far. From personal experience of a world leading small business the business claim that the banks are setting onerous conditions for lending and seeking to charge exorbitant interest and fees is absolutely true.

Thank goodness for Vince Cable who is still doggedly chasing after ways of increasing transparency of executive pay and is expected to unveil proposals later this month. Earlier Vince used the phrase 'spivs & gamblers' which earned him many detractors. A fairly sure barometer of the fact that he was right.

Even Kleinman says: " The ludicrous complexity of many executive pay schemes has been fuelled by an army of remuneration consultants interested mainly in self-enrichment"

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