Friday, 27 February 2009

Marquise Myners plays dangerously with Vicomte de Fred

In what is perhaps the most eagerly followed letter-writing face-off since Pierre Choderlos de Laclos published Les Liasons Dangereuses in 1782, the correspondence just keeps on flying back and forth between former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin and City Minister Lord Myners.
As you'll all know by now, Sir Fred's first effort declined a tempting piece of seduction by Lord Myners, who had merely asked for the Scottish banker to give up his £650,000-a-year pension. My Lord countered that refusal with a riposte which claimed that he found Sir Fred's response "unacceptable" - despite admitting that the whole deal might have inadvertantly been given a Government nod.
"I welcomed your decision then to waive [your 12-month notice period and certain share-related awards]," Lord Myners writes. "That did not amount to approval of your pension arrangements given that, as I have outlined, I was unaware of any scope for discretion."
But how could any Minister have failed to ask about this major point, which would have been a huge gaffe for an inexperienced civil servant, never mind a man of My Lord's expertise.
Here is a man who has sat on remuneration committees and having become City Minister last year, issued this stark warning to any boardroom daring to try it on.
“I think remuneration committees are going to need to think very carefully about [excessive rewards]," My Lord mused back then. "We have made it very clear that Government is watching."

A principled stance?

As the Government looks to claim back Sir Fred Goodwin's £650,000-a-year pension, will the principle of no retirement rewards for failures of the credit crisis extend to the top brass at the Treasury, the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the Cabinet?
And if so, which selfless soul will make the first sacrifice?

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Peston strikes again, with civil tale

So who was the source of Robert Peston's "striking story" on Sir Fred Goodwin's £650k-a-year RBS pension on last night's BBC News at Ten?
Surely not a favoured Peston civil servant - a profession well known for selflessly sparing the taxpayer of any unnecessary pain in this area.
Nor can the tale be described as new - despite Pesto's self promotion - which makes one wonder what the great disseminator's motives are.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Heidrick to top-up from Tappin?

What next for Carol Leonard, the top City headhunter who is leaving Whitehead Mann?
There may be one neat solution. Since the departure of Steve Tappin last month, Heidrick & Struggles no longer has a head of its UK CEO & Board Practice - a division that has yet to gain the traction in this country that the leading US search firm enjoys elsewhere.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Ladbrokes goes plural

I read that Ladbrokes is suffering as its wealthy punters rein in spending. Is that really punters plural?
Betting industry gossips have always reckoned that high-roller profits at Ladbrokes are mostly derived from a single customer - supposedly the Sultan of Brunei.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Stanford update...

It seems my Stanford story of yesterday was on the money - so to speak.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dropping a million dollar dolly?

As the Securities and Exchange Commission prepares to ask "Sir" Allen Stanford to assist them with their enquiries into an alleged fraud of shocking magnitude, what happened to those $1m cheques he doled out to the Stanford winners in November?
According to a piece in the Sunday Times which predated the SEC's move:
- Shivnarine Chanderpaul says he has invested his winnings;
- Sylvester Joseph is investing his money;
- Dave Mohammed followed advice to place his money with an "investment firm";
- Kieron Pollard has invested "with a financial company".
Would that be a financial and investment firm with a link to West Indies cricket, I wonder?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Recession Myths

No. 1: Recessions are good for your health...

November 2008: Tory health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, observes: "I've been reading up on the impact of previous economic downturns on our health. Interestingly, on many counts, recession can be good for us. People tend to smoke less, drink less alcohol, eat less rich food and spend more time at home with their families."

February 2009: Kentucky Fried Chicken announces it's creating 9,000 new jobs in the UK, while UK and Irish profits at Domino's Pizza rise 25% to £23.4m.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Banking Top Chumps

Welcome to a new SlackBelly series of Banking Top Chumps.
As this effort is clearly based on the popular card game of a similar name, I'm sure the rules will need no explanation, except to say that I'm hoping the series proves an occasional feature (unless I'm forced to trot out more cards in the absence of any proper stories).
Anyway, just cut out and collect to start playing. Sir James Crosby is today's card - so to speak.

Footnote: For HBOS, the percentage of the bank now state-owned applies to what would have happened without the Lloyds takeover. These figures may soon need updating, of course.

Friday, 13 February 2009

The way they were...

Financier of the Year 2001 - Peter Cummings, Managing Director of Corporate Banking was awarded 'Financier of the Year' by the Corporate Finance Faculty of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, England & Wales. He is also a nominee for 'Dealmaker of the Year' awarded by Insider Group in Sept 2001.

Footnote: That was as good as it got. Lloyds now expects to suffer £7bn of impairment charges on corporate loans made by its new subsidiary HBOS that went sour, a turn that seems to be being blamed on poor Peter, an HBOS veteran who left the company in January after going from sweeping the floor to running a £109bn loan book.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Arcane row leads the news agenda for days

As the repercussions of Paul Moore's whistle blowing to the Treasury Select Committee continue to lead the news agenda (i.e., Sir James Crosby resigning from the FSA etc etc), it is good to see Guardian business supremo, Dan Roberts, calling the mood so perfectly.
His 11.37am entry, on his live blog covering the hearing, reads: "They've now wasted best part of half an hour on an arcane row about a supposed whistleblower at HBOS. I wish we could get back to the meat. Fred Goodwin is about to walk off into the sunset any minute now."

Happy Birthday, Charles and Nicholas

I see that Charles Darwin shares a birthday (today) with Conservative politician Nicholas "Fatty" Soames - a keen participant in City boardrooms.
That's what some call irony. There are a few unkind souls who reckon that Soames, a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, is living proof of Darwin's theories - only in reverse.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Time to charge?

Time magazine's cover story this week is called: How to save your newspaper.
The piece, written by Time bigwig Walter Isaacson, offers several proposals for improving the blight aflicting the paper trade, but they boil down to one main point: don't give away your content for free you idiots - put in on a website if you like, but charge for it.
It's an intriguing idea - charging for content. Sadly, the story is available at for no cost.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Moore's the pity

Also spotted at the Treasury Select Committee this morning was lefty comedian, Mark Thomas.
Thomas was there to hear how HBOS's former head of risk, Paul Moore, had submitted written evidence revealing how he'd informed the Board of concerns about their approach to banking, only to be "summarily dismissed".
Moore was whacked by former HBOS chief, Sir James Crosby, who (coincidentally) has something in common with Thomas.
In November, both Sir James and Thomas simultaneously received nominal mortar boards from Bradford University - a story which the Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported under the headline Comedian to get honorary degree.
That heading was a reference to Thomas. Possibly.

Sideline: is Thomas planning a television series on the financial crisis?

Update: For a hard copy of SlackBelly's stories (only published a day later) please buy a copy of The Times and read their City Diary.

Stevenson needs Xtra help with banking definition

To the Treasury Select Committee where former HBOS chairman, Lord Stevenson, was trying desperately to demonstrate that he knows everything there is to know about banking.
Those efforts weren't helped, however, when Committee chairman, John McFall, read out the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a bank. Is that accurate, he asked?
"Could you read it out again?" stuttered Stevenson.
Excellent work, My Lord.

It's the taking part that counts

No unemployment worries at London 2012, where the jobs gravy train continues to trundle along uninterrupted by any concerns over Government borrowing or a major recession.
The Organising Committee is currently advertising for a Technical Architect, a Trailblazer’s Volunteer Coordinator, a Uniform Manager, a Senior Client Services Manager, a Polyclinic and Medical Services Coordinator, a Head of Spectator Services, an Olympic Park Venue Group Lead, a Venues Project Manager, a Delivery Integration Manager, a Group Manager (Client Services), a Venue Results Manager, a Fleet Services Manager, a Security Team Administration Assistant, a Security Risk Assessor, a Resourcing Project Manager, a Commercial Manager, a Director of Games Services, a Producer of Sport Presentation and a Director of Games Operations.
Any change from our £10bn? A paltry £700m (and falling) at the last count.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Female logic

Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley joins the debate on City bonuses this morning with her piece "To chop City bonuses, start by cutting the testosterone".
Argues Ashley: "A more modern approach would be to widen the pool of people in financial services to include more women, and to pay them fairly, without ludicrous bonuses, in an atmosphere more like the rest of the working world."
Sadly, there's no room in Jackie's piece to highlight one female executive who is paid rather well herself. Step forward Carolyn McCall, who trousered a bonus of £385,000 last year on top of a £424,000 salary, in her role as chief executive of, er, the Guardian Media Group.

Friday, 6 February 2009

An eye for an eye

Some BBC News 24 producer is either very brave or has a keen sense of irony.
With Jeremy Clarkson joining the list of embattled Auntie presenters after he called the Prime Minister a "one-eyed Scottish idiot", the news channel rolled out an "expert" commentator to reflect on this latest outrage.
His name? Gordon Banks (the MP for Ochil & Perthshire South, not the one-eyed former England goalie).

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The economy's screwed, are you?

Jeremy Warner, the business supremo at the embattled Independent, gets a double page spread today to outline his "manifesto" on how to save the world.
Now he's done that, can he tell us how to save the Indy?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

How wind power works

You may have noticed that the City experienced a light dusting of snow on Monday - which meant that we all cranked up the heating a notch or two.
So which energy sources provided most of the electricty to the National Grid that day? Here are the Grid's figures - which have fallen into my lap - showing exactly why wind power is a great oxymoron.

Gas: 30.4%
Coal: 48.6%
Nuclear: 16.4% and er,
Wind (it never blows when you need it): 0.3%

Monday, 2 February 2009