Thursday, 24 September 2009

Post Crash Experts

If only Alistair Darling and Lord Adair Turner had ever visited a front bar of a pub nowhere near the City prior to the credit crunch and financial meltdown, they would have got their chest heartlity prodded and been told in no uncertain terms that there was a massive hole looming in Britain's finances and that our economy had become unrealistically dependent on over-inflated asset values which were being traded spuriously to raise cheap money on the international markets.

Of course, none of us armchair sages would have had an earthly idea about why this was so dangerous, what these derivative products actually were, how badly our economy would be affected by asset value falls but we all new that what went up HAD to come down. There was a bubble inflated to maximum and it was going to burst - and boy, didn't it just.

These Governemt and associated 'illuminati' like Turner sat back murmuring how beautifully under control everything was. Even when things started to go worng like the 'discovery' of sub prime in America, no one linked this with the financial system in general - not even the bankers. As the crisis got worse, Ministers told us that it can't happen to us as we had a 'robust economy' and then that recession would hurt us less as house prices were more stable here. But the whole vicious circle of finance catches you up - all you needed was one small puff of bad gas and the whole financial system would collapse like a house of cards.

So now that it has all happened, Lord Tuner has had an epiphany. After all that education, years in the Consultancy business, heading the CBI and sitting on numerous Quangos, he has suddenly realised that bankers were in fact trading products that had no real implicit functionor even value other than for them to earn money and that these bankers had little understanding of the implications of doing so. Other, of course, than the fact that they could earn sensational amounts of money by doing so. Mr. Darling has also suddenly woken up and has smelt similar coffee and now espouses the same 20-20 hindsight wisdom as Turner. We are all finally singing off the same hymn sheet.

Not as such. What has either the FSA or the Government done to outlaw the trading of these daft products? Nothing. In fact, as we piddle about fiddling with bonus cultures and wondering if everyone will do the same thing or else one us gets left behind, the written down toxic debts are being 'traded' for vast profits right in front of our faces. Stuff that we now guarantee or have written down in value with our taxpayer cash are actually being used to create vast new profits for banks as if they have suddenly reclaimed some value. The embers of Lehmans and some 94 other banks that have failed in the US are being raked over for little nuggets to trade while Barclays do not even use a white cloth to hide their toxic debt that they suddenly make vanish and create a $3.9bn profit by doing so while at the same time they make 45 former employees millionaires - overnight with one click of the computer and a swish of the pen - it even makes their capital ratio look better it such a good magic trick.

Despite all this post-crash wisdom, nothing has been done. And nothing will be. But talk is good - it helps us taxpayers get used to the fact that we can blame people who have added over a million to our dole queue who will this year be getting multi-million pound bonuses after a short technical hitch to their money making. The fact that the sails are set fair for the next crash seems to ellude their feeble minds and that talking is not going to get the problem fixed. It will take one of the leaders to confront the issue and make sure that his/her country's economy is no longer so dependent on a few people making more money each year than an average worker would make even if they won the lottery jackpot at least once a year.

The G20 starts this week, my bet is that nothing comes of it that will change the behviour and machinations of banks substantially and we will all forget the crash until the next one happens again. Then the same sages can act as dumbfounded as they were with this one.

In a cruel blow to Odgers, the recruitment company charged with headhunting the new CEO for UKFI who manage our 'investments' in banks, they have been fired as they took on an ex-RBS banker.
They learned the bitter lesson that headhunters and recruiting managers should all take on board - just because you have experience of an industry, it does not mean you know anything about it.

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