Rogues gallery of financial terrorists
The stated purpose of the wide-ranging, privacy-destroying, state-interventionist ‘War Against Terror’ legislation is to protect our way of life and ensure that anyone threatening the peace and stability of either the UK or the US is swiftly and ruthlessly dealt with.
Yet what the UK, the US and other countries currently face has an even greater potential to destroy lives than crashing an aeroplane into a skyscraper. Many thousands of people – usually poor people – die in times of severe economic strife, through hunger, increased public disorder, war and depression-induced suicide.
Think I’m exaggerating? Karl Denninger is a respected commentator on financial matters. Read what he has to say about the US situation. And if you think the UK’s really ‘better placed to weather the financial storm’, you’ve swallowed too much of what Gordon Brown’s been spouting.
We’ve heard time and again from media outlets that ‘nobody could have predicted these events’ and that there’s ‘nothing anyone could have done’, but both statements are obviously untrue. Many people did predict the events of the last 12-18 months, some of them in great detail and some of them quite a long way up the financial food chain. They were conveniently ignored, because too many other people had their fingers in the pie.
So, for any UK prosecutors interested in naming, shaming and jailing some of the people who have brought the financial system to the brink of collapse, here’s a few pointers, in no particular order:
1) The FSA. Totally and utterly failed to do its job. Aside from a few vague warnings about banks needing to ’stress-test’ their lending models, they did nothing to restrict the culture of idiot lending, even though they had the power to do so. And they still don’t get it, having claimed publicly that HBOS was a totally solid bank just days before its death-throes takeover by Lloyds TSB. Even Alistair Darling could see through that drivel, and by his own admission he gets his financial information from the newspapers.
2) The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. It had the chance to reduce the impact of idiot lending in August 2005 but voted for a rate cut (with the honorable exception of Mervyn King), leading the public and the banks to believe that house prices really could only go one way.
3) The Media. With exceptions too few to be noticed – and the BBC has arguably been the greatest culprit (many of its staff are into Buy-to-Let, one assumes) – the newspapers, television and even radio have shamelessly ramped property as a one-way investment. “Get yourself massively into debt to buy a house now, because tomorrow you won’t be able to afford it!” has been their shrill cry. Try doing that with shares and you’d be pulled off the air within hours, so why is property investment advice not regulated by the incompetent FSA?
4) Greedy members of the public. Not those who bought a house out of fear and gullibility, but the parasitic ones. Do you know someone who lied about their income on their mortgage application form? Well, that’s fraud; a criminal offence. Not only were they defrauding the banks, they were also contributing to a runaway, debt-fuelled pyramid scam that took money from the young and poor and fed it up towards the rich (and would-be nouveau-riche) and old. Technically they could go to jail. Many of them will soon be homeless.
5) Politicians (including the slyly departed Tony Blair). If anyone had the power and the opportunity to say, “Hang on a minute, is an economy based on debt and ever-increasing house prices really sensible?”, they did. But with the vocal exception of Vince Cable of the Lib-Dems, they all kept quiet and fawned over the emperor’s new clothes. A quick glance through the parliamentary members’ interests list shows that more than a few of them, including the Chancellor, are amateur landlords themselves. Quelle surprise.
6) Investment bankers. Selfish, wise fools who securitised debt and pocketed obscene bonuses despite knowing that the system they had created was dangerously unsustainable. I bet they’re crying into the Med on their yachts right now.
7) Other bankers and mortgage brokers who knowingly approved false or deliberately fraudulent loan applications. The real fallout from their deceit is only just being discovered.
8) Gordon Brown for wasting the UK’s resources, making a pig’s ear of its accounts and selling off so many of its assets during the boom years that we have nothing to fall back on now. And for compounding the problem by creating a giant monolith of a bank in Lloyds TSB / HBOS that breaks competition laws and can pretty much write its own rulebook. Even idiots usually learn from their mistakes; they don’t deliberately make the same ones again on a larger scale.
Quite a list. It doesn’t leave many people untainted, does it? With so many complicit in this financial devastation, don’t hold your breath waiting for the prosecutions to begin. Doubtless everything will be swept under the carpet and blamed on ‘what happened in America.’ Your taxes, and those of your children, will be bailing out the broken banks (and providing the bankers’ bonuses) for decades to come. And Gordon Brown will probably get a nice, cushy job with Lloyds TSB HBOS in 2010.
With people like this on our side, who needs terrorists?