Quote (and other things) of the Day

From, not surprisingly, The Daily Mash.

Ed Miliband cost Britain the best part of a billion pounds yesterday.

The Labour leader’s brave, popular stance against RBS bonuses led directly to the bank losing £900m of its value as investors reckoned that if Ed Miliband was calling the shots they may as well buy shares in a mangled badger.

Which is ironic given that’s pretty much what his old boss, the cyclops with the faecal Midas touch, did when he spunked away nearly £40 billion of taxpayers’ money on buying a company that had the thick end of two fucking trillion in liabilities.

And on a closely related subject, which I might have titled ‘Twat of the day’ if I was making a separate post of it, I see that Fred the Shred has been de-knighted, stripped of his honour for services to the banking industry nominally because of his disservice to the banking industry, but I suspect mainly because it’s politically expedient to give him a good kick in the balls despite the fact that he committed no actual crime. Or perhaps, given that he’s been the target of this kind of thing on and off since Harriet Harperson suggested three years ago that the ‘court of public opinion’ (which is entirely different from Harperson herself and other champagne socialists) had decided his pension arrangements were unacceptable despite being in a legal contract, it’d be more accurate to say that it’s still politically expedient to kick him in the balls. I can’t think of any other reason why, as the Tele points out, Goodwin has been singled out for being no worse than a big business fuck up while others, some of whom have committed real actual crimes, have been allowed to keep their gongs.

Lord Jeffrey Archer, disgraced peer and best-selling author, he spent time at her majesty’s pleasure for perjury in 2001, having lied about sleeping with a prostitute.

[…]

Ex-HBOS chairman Lord Stevenson was awarded a CBE in 1981, a knighthood in 1997 and was made a peer in 1999. Like Goodwin he played a significant role in his bank’s near-collapse in 2008 and apologised to the Treasury Select Committee for his over-reliance on wholesale funding markets.

[…]

Lord Taylor of Warwick, the son of Jamaican immigrants who rose from humble beginnings to become a barrister and a member of the Upper House, was exposed by the Daily Telegraph for swindling £11,000 in fraudulent MP expenses out of the taxpayer and subsequently imprisoned, yet retains his seat in the House of Lords.

Labour peers Lady Uddin and Lord Paul, and the crossbencher Lord Bhatia all received lengthy suspensions from the House of Lords after wrongly claiming thousands of pounds in expenses yet retain the right to re-ent

To which, it could be argued, we should add the names Sir Howard Davies and Sir Callum McCarthy, chairman of the Financial Services Authority from 97-03 and 03-08 respectively, though perhaps not Jonathan Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell, the FSA chairman since May 2008, who’s getting some stick in various news website comments but really wasn’t there in time to have prevented anything. But we could certainly include the various Sirs, Dames, Honorables, Right Honourables and so on in parliament and on whatever committees approve these things who all so thoroughly applauded what ex-Sir Fred was doing that they put him up for and awarded him the fucking knighthood in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of ex-Sir Fred and in fact I’ve called him some unpleasant names and expressed hope that he fall down some stairs and land on his testicles, but if all this really is, as it’s being said, for bringing the honours system into disrepute surely the spotlight should rather be on those who give out honours to idiots, fuck ups, crooks and inconsequential slebs.

In fact never mind his bloody honour, such as it is these days, you don’t need to look far to find people saying he and other bankers should be arrested and jailed. For example, this comment at Huffpo

They should throw him in the tower of London for a good number of years as well.

… and this one at the Graun

Good. Now put him in jail.

… and this one commenting on the same article

He should be locked-up in prison.

And best of all, this one from a web forum.

in my opinion, taking away the knighthood means nothing. This bastard should have been tried in court and sentenced to jail.

he basically played around with other people’s money while paying himself a high salary and then when $hit hit the fan, asked for a 45 billion bailout. Im sorry, but if someone steals 10 dollars from another, he is called a criminal and can get a prison sentence. While this idiot stole billions, and people are arguing about some stupid title that means nothing.

Dump this idiot in prison…then we can discuss his knighthood.

Oh, and also one I spotted a few months back by Jon Snow, long serving journo and former law student.

Veteran Channel 4 newsborg Jon Snow blogs on the eeeevil bankers, and specifically asks why they haven’t been arrested, and by extension I imagine charged, tried, found guilty, purged, flayed, subjected to the Pear of Anguish and possibly also the Banana of Discomfort and the whole Fruit Salad of Much Inconvenience, and finally hung, drawn, quartered and buried in five limed graves each. But that may just be the impression I get.

Click for linky

The publication of the Vickers report into British banking reform sparks the question why the UK has so far failed to prosecute a single individual for his or her misdeeds during the financial meltdown of 2008.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that maybe no actual crime has been committed. Negligence, probably yes. Gross stupidity, almost indubitably. Financial irresponsibility and incompetence of such breathtaking degree that it’s comparable with what some governments spunk away every week, for sure. And some of that may be tortious, but is there evidence that an actual offence has been committed and is there enough of it to make a successful prosecution likely? Because if the answer to both is no, Jon, there’s your reason why.

Okay, he might not have finished his law degree but you’d hope that the course would have covered the tiny detail that people need to be at least suspected of having committed a crime before they can legally be arrested, and if not that he might have picked up the fact at some stage during a long career in journalism or even just by being a fucking adult. I’m reasonably sure I was aware that you couldn’t be arrested, Constable Savage style, for bullshit offences made up on the spot by the time I was in my late teens.*

All of this cockwaftery about arrests and prison stretches have the same thing in common – a complete absence of any mention of an actual crime Goodwin or any other banker (with the notable exception of Bernie Madhoff, whose fraud was genuine but actually had two fifths of fuck all to do with the financial crisis) is alleged to have committed. Y’know, something that’s a real offence that you can be arrested for and charged with, something with a statute somewhere to make the action a crime and give legal power to punish it, that kind of thing. Christ, only one even mentions those inconvenient formalities of courts and trials, but even then the fact of imprisonment seems to be treated as a priori and the writer even goes so far as to specifically accuse Fred Goodwin of theft. Yeah, and I suppose my bank steals the money I voluntarily deposit in it too, right? Or is he perhaps referring to the money given to RBS in the bailout? If so then it should be pointed out that as far as Goodwin and RBS were concerned the exchange of funds was again entirely voluntary, and of course shares, for whatever they ultimately turn out to be worth, were given in return. The only involuntary part, the only bit where money was forcefully taken from people, was the bit where money was taken from taxpayers so as to be thrown, by Gordon Clown and his Darling Alastair, at RBS and other banks. It’s more like stealing ten dollars before meeting someone who’s lost their own money on the horses and owes a lot more, and then giving him the ten dollars as well as stealing another twenty and going out to steal again the next day – the guy who owes all that money may be an idiot but he’s not the thief.

Let me repeat that vital point: whatever else that guy is, he is NOT a thief.

How the fuck can apparently reasoning adults not understand this? Do I really have to get medieval Reformation on their asses and quote Sir Thomas More again? Or shall I go with the misquoted version I used when fisking Jon Snow last year?

Arrest them.

Why?

They’re eeevil bankers who are greedy, stupid and negligent.

There’s no law against that.

So now you’d give the bankers the benefit of law?

Yes. What would you do?
Cut a great road through the
law to get after the bankers?

And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it  — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Why is it so difficult for some people to grasp that when you start demanding that people be thrown in gaol without worrying about whether they’ve broken a law then those doing the throwing and demanding are in as much trouble as the actual throwees?

‘Kinell!

* Actually the Constable Savage sketch might even be part of the reason I was aware of this.

 
 

10 comments for “Quote (and other things) of the Day

  1. PJH
    February 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

    …Harriet Harperson…

    I keep seeing that name. Why isn’t it “Harriet Harperchild”?

    Just wonderin’

  2. Voice of Reason
    February 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    There were a bunch of New York bankers who were pumping up derivatives at the same time as the firms were selling those same investments short. There also was a great deal of fraud at all levels in the sale of mortgages. Does that count?

    • February 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      In short, no. As far as I know short selling is perfectly legal, or at least it was at the time though the banker hatred has grown to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s now illegal somewhere. Maybe even retrospectively, just so some bankers can be nailed (which would be worrying). As for the fraud, does it meet the legal test of fraud or are we talking mortgages sold by idiots to idiots, neither of whom could see that they were both over extended, all because some other idiots decided that there are votes in fooling people into thinking they can afford to own their own homes and creating a crerit bubble to fund it? If so I wouldn’t call that fraud but a sign that caveat emptor has never been more true. If not then fraud comes down to what you can prove to a jury.

      • Voice of Reason
        February 2, 2012 at 1:47 am

        I would argue that:
        1. Selling investments short when you are encouraging your clients to buy the same ones is outright fraud – this is what they did.
        2. Many of the mortgage brokers deliberately helped people to falsify the statements of earnings – again fraud.

        • February 2, 2012 at 6:20 am

          1. Whatever you or I or anyone else may think of it short selling was, and I think still is in most places, perfectly legal. It’s like gay sex – some people want to do it, some people can’t stand anyone at all doing it and some don’t care, but it’s moot because the bottom line (no pun intended) is that it’s legal. End of. That’s one of the themes of the post – wishing something was illegal doesn’t make it so and doesn’t mean we can bang someone up just because they’re a banker and the current target of the Two Minute Hate (which I think should be more properly aimed at the politicians whose policies were the root of things).

          Personally I don’t have a problem with anything that is (a) entered into voluntarily and (b) is between reasoning adults, which would include both short selling and gay sex even if carried out at the same time. Just as long as nobody demands that I get involved… Nor do I have a problem with someone encouraging people to buy what they’re selling, which applies as much to shares as to ‘ Get chore banana’s ‘ere, they’re loverly, five for a fiver’ and regardless of how they were bought by the seller. There’s no trickery involved in short selling and nor is it done at the expense of clients – and given the proportion of shares held by a relatively small number of large investors such as pension funds you’d expect short sellers to run out of big clients fairly rapidly if it was. In fact both can profit, the short seller from the fall in price by the time they have to cover it and the buyer because they have shares they were going to purchase anyway. Everyone involved knows that in falling markets shares for sale may be shorts, but if the price is the same as shares that are truly owned outright why should anyone buying care and how are they being defrauded? Answer: they don’t and they aren’t.

          The only time short selling is a problem is if the price has gone up instead of down when the time comes to cover it, and when that happens the only one to lose out is the one who’s doing the short selling. If that’s a big institution that’s done it a lot and got caught out when the market unexpectedly moved the opposite way then they might lose a hell of a lot of money, which clearly has implications for the company’s liquidity and maybe even its survival if they really screw up. But that’s self inflicted damage, not fraud. If the banks, encouraged by stupid governments and their policies, hadn’t already got themselves into trouble with other unwise investments the amount of fuck that anyone else would give would be around zero.

          2. In that case surely it’s the applicant who’s committed fraud, not the broker. The broker might be guilty of fraud as well, but they might only be an accessory or an innocent third party. They might even be the one being defrauded if they have shares in the mortgagee. Again, rule of law stuff, it’s down to what you can actually prove in court, which ain’t much if it’s one word against another but only one wet signature on a falsified document. Real world example (the names may be familiar): Geoff lends Peter £370K to help him buy a house and Peter does not disclose that this money is a loan rather than his own capital to the Britannia Building Society, which is the mortgagee for the rest of the cost. Not falsifying the statement of earnings but it is being less than up front about the status of at least some of the money Peter himself is putting up. So if there’s anything fraudulent here who did it? Ultimately Peter chose to say what he said, and regardless of whether Geoff or a broker or anyone else encouraged him (sharing culpability in a moral sense, but in a practical sense only if you can prove it to a jury) it was Peter’s responsibility to ensure he was scrupulously honest. The bank, or building society here, is the victim rather than the perpetrator, though they were very nice about it afterwards and didn’t cause too many waves for Peter, though his boss punished him a bit by making him stand in the corner for a while. Geoff was similarly punished though he did no more than lend Peter money as far as I recall, and Geoff and Peter stopped being friends after that. Funnily enough, given the honours part of the post, Peter was not a Lord or anything when he made his iffy mortgage application but he was made one later on. As the Yanks like to say, go figure. 👿

          As far as the subprime mortgages that created all that toxic debt go, yes, no doubt some brokers keen to make a bonus encouraged people to lie. However, those people who lied were not compelled to and could have chosen to be honest, which kind of dents my sympathies for them. As for the brokers’ role, as I keep saying any guilt must be proven. I imagine they’re licensed in many states and that there was enough evidence against some for them to lose their licenses, and who knows, maybe there was enough to convict a few as well. If so then great, and as long as due process of law isn’t being circumvented for the short term political goal of banker bashing I’m just fine with that. But it doesn’t make stuffing up your own perfectly healthy bank in the process of buying ABN Amro and NatWest a criminal offence.

          • February 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

            VoR wasn’t commenting on short selling, but on witholding your position on a trade when giving advice (which is definitely illegal in the states, and while I don’t know for certain about the UK, I would be surprised if it wasn’t illegal here too).

            Also, that the people encouraged to lie did lie as well is beside the point, it was a fraud that had wider consequences. Also, anecdotally, it appears to have in some cases happened without the applicant’s knowledge (ie the application was altered). This is absolutely illegal.

            In any case, you’ve constructed a circular argument where no-one has been charged because no crime was committed, and you know this because no-one has been charged!

            Finally, no court (whether of law, of public opinion, of mortal combat, or otherwise) is a place of truth. The truth of a matter does not depend on the outcome of litigation.

            • February 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm

              Okay, VoR and I may be at cross purposes here, but I don’t see how it’s a circular argument to say that the specific person mentioned in the thread, Fred Goodwin, is not in prison simply because what he did wasn’t illegal. What would you have instead, a society where the fact of a crime is judged by accusation and moral outrage? It’d certainly get a lot of people locked up, but equality before the law? Fat chance!

              In any case I haven’t said nobody has been charged because I don’t know that to be so. I just said that regardless of what someone’s done you can only imprison them for what you can prove, and that that’s the way it should be. I’d be surprised if a few low to mid level people haven’t been nicked, but these are the small fry, not the Goodwins and other CEOs that people are leaping up and down about and asking why they aren’t in prison. And of course it was Goodwin I was talking about. Show he’s committed a crime, as opposed to something that just provokes outrage, and then – and only then – jail the bastard. That’s all I ask, and I’m not asking because I give the faintest shit about Goodwin but because I too would give the Devil the benefit of law just for my own safety’s sake.

              Finally, no court (whether of law, of public opinion, of mortal combat, or otherwise) is a place of truth.

              Of course they’re not. In some countries they’re conviction factories while in others, those influenced by Blackstone and better that N guilty men go free than one is wrongly imprisoned, they stack the deck against reaching a conviction so as to keep innocent people from being found guilty by accident. Even then that happens far more often than it should. This isn’t about truth, it’s about the huge gamble those of us who genuinely have done nothing take if we demand due process is abandoned just to get at some particularly notorious figure of dislike. Look, change the law if you want and make what Fred Goodwin did illegal, and if you want even make that effective retrospectively so he can be jailed. The precedent’s already been set, as I mentioned at the beginning of last month. But if you do don’t moan when you get pinged for 55mph in a 60 zone after the limit is retroactively lowered to 40mph because some campaigning busybody has demanded it for the chiiiiildren, even if you never came within a hundred metres of actually hitting one.

  3. February 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Excellent post.

  4. February 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Do I really have to get medieval Reformation on their asses and quote Sir Thomas More again?

    Strange that – LR quoted that too elsewhere.

    • February 1, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      I think he and I both used it for something around the same time recently. Might have been the Lawrence murder trial. Really it’s the perfect quote any time the desire to see ‘justice’ done at any cost, including disposing of inconvenient due process, starts to rear its ugly head.

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