After 52 years and two months of gainful employment in the City of London, this week, without any qualification or ambiguity, has been the saddest of my professional life. I hang my head in shame! Any thought of a quick return of respect and trust towards the financial sector has been blown out of the water by a small group of mindless, greedy, selfish and arrogant congenital idiots.
Going back five years I saw it as my duty to stand up for the principles of the City. Yes, there was a combination of reckless behaviour, incompetence, greed, poor and soft regulation, non-existent credit analysis and government/political incompetence, which eventually brought the banking sector and the world’s economy to its knees. But what wasn’t 100% clear then was criminal intent. It was too easy to single out Fred Goodwin, but he was endemic of a combination of incompetence and hubris. He and his colleagues stood to make too much money from their success to actually want to throw the ‘baby out with the bathwater’ with criminal intent.
Back then, however, people were not having any of my balanced presentation. There was no appetite for conversation or reason. Too many people had been poleaxed by the crisis, too many were walking out in to the sunset with bags of undeserved swag!
The years rolled quietly by; the recovery started. Then the damage caused by not only PPI but also LIBOR rigging manifested itself. Stronger and better qualified regulators brought their influence to bear. PPI fines and repayments have cost banks £20bn. The cause then was overzealous miss-selling caused by greed and individual bonus calculations. Still, however, criminal intent was not that obvious. LIBOR, as a system, was always flawed. Fancy allowing a trade association to decide the pricing of $500bn of loans!
Last year I flagged up the fact FX rate fixing could make the other malpractices look like a vicarage tea party. The behaviour by a few has been reprehensible. It was particularly galling that this alleged criminal collusion was going on at the same time as the LIBOR investigation. The angst and contempt for the City has never been higher! Deservedly so! Some of the evidence makes my stomach turn. Barclays has chosen to be tried on its own. It is difficult to understand its rationale. One can only assume that Barclays felt that in the past it had been discriminated against and under Jenkins’s policy – ‘transparency’ is the name of their game.
In closing all I can say is that the market has every confidence in the effectiveness of the new regulators. And I know that I speak for 99.999% of City workers when I say – WE ARE ANGRY, DISPIRITED AND DISMAYED. Trust me the City is NOT rotten to the core! These FX fiddlers are just mindless and selfish. May they be brought to book! To the guilty – I hope the keys are thrown away for a long time. Fines have proved to be useless. They are not a deterrent.
A version of this article first appeared on the author’s blog.