Originally written on 14th February 2009.
Have things really changed within our financial institutions?
Why aren’t the bank bosses getting the message that the country is very, very angry with them? Not only that, and what makes it even more frustrating is that no one seems to know what to do with financial miscreants. If I were to steal something from you and my crime was discovered then I should expect the law to take its course and I would most likely be punished. Justice must be seen to be done. In recent years we’ve seen governments taking a tough line on major organised crime in particular the so-called ‘drug barons’ who have seen their bank accounts frozen and any assets accumulated through their activities seized in the name of justice. Somehow I can’t imagine any drug enforcement agency or government accepting ‘sorry’ as grounds for leniency. It seems to me that the law needs to be flexible enough to deal with extraordinary crimes in extraordinary circumstances like, for example, a group of hitherto respected banking supremos admitting their guilt by saying ‘sorry’ before parliament. But what of the punishment? After all, there have been no criminal charges, arrests or trials. Why then would any private individual say ‘sorry’ in such a high profile and public arena as parliament? Surely one would be tempted to stay very, very quiet and leave everything in the hands of legal representation. What should happen to any individual that has been part of a group or organisation that was responsible for the loss of billions of pounds and dollars from the pockets of ordinary working people? Why is this any different from taking a lorry load of gold from a warehouse at Heathrow? This is not some random faux pas that can be shrugged off over lunch as ‘a bit of a cock-up on the banking front’! There is nothing that any politician, banker, lawyer or Law Lord that can convince me that ‘sorry’ is enough. All of those responsible should have all of their assets seized and all of their financial accounts frozen. Talk of bonuses should be simply laughed out of parliament and court and we should now be talking about how we reimburse all those pensioners and savers. These people were trusted with our savings, mortgages, pensions: lives. Most of us trusted them because we know very little of the financial markets and have little or no alternative but to trust them. But whom can we trust now? The next time a bank or financial representative attempts to introduce you or me to some new savings or pensions product how should they expect us to respond? What would their response be if we were to say that we’d get back to them once we’ve checked it out first with a lawyer? None of this should be happening: none of this should have happened. But now that it has lets at least have justice. We deserve that much.