Britain’s Independent Commission on Banking may have started the practical process of ring-fencing banks against disaster. But the commission has no mandate to expose the truth of what went wrong in the financial crisis (including, it has to be said, the complicity of ordinary borrowers) let alone heal the trauma it caused.
Brad Fried, former chief executive of Investec, thinks that if an honest, open analysis of the causes of the crisis is not carried out, there is a risk that the UK, and the financial world, will repeat the same mistakes.
Bernie Madoff’s interview with the FT from his North Carolina prison is a gripping read. As an aficionado of rogue traders and financial fraudsters, I am interested in why they turn the corner (as they usually do) from legitimate activity to crime.
The acquisition of a minority stake in Liverpool football club by US basketball star LeBron James looks high on (self-)publicity and low on detail to me. Here’s the FT:
James’s LRMR Marketing & Branding group will take a “minority interest” in the club as part of a sponsorship deal agreed with Fenway Sports Management, a subsidiary of FSG [Liverpool's owner]. Financial terms were not disclosed.
This is a long way from a deal to use some of the Miami Heat star’s millions to build a new stadium for the UK club, or apply his business acumen to ensuring its survival.
I once hitched a ride on a Gulfstream jet (purely for research purposes, obviously) and enjoyed the experience of being flown in a leather-trimmed cabin at nearly 50,000ft, escaping the turbulence buffeting the commercial aircraft far below. It felt as if I had joined the elite group that lives by different rules to ordinary folk.
The financial crisis revealed that management and supervision of banks were more than just a numbers game, so it’s distressing to see the European Commission edging towards a limit on the number of directorships bank directors can hold.
I’m all in favour of close monitoring – by the board – of whether board members are taking on too much. The job of bank director is too important to entrust to individuals who are already shouldering a big burden elsewhere. But the best way to ensure directors can devote quality time to the job is for the board nominations committee to be absolutely explicit about the amount of work involved. A clue: at large financial institutions, it’s a lot.
A confession: if a bribe is something offered to influence judgment or conduct, then I have given and taken bribes.
I have enjoyed sporting, musical and theatrical events at companies’ expense. I have literally rubbed shoulders with Silvio Berlusconi in the tribuna d’onore at Milan’s San Siro stadium (at someone else’s invitation). I have flown in Robert Maxwell’s jet to Robert Maxwell’s yacht, to hear the corrupt media magnate extol his latest acquisition on the deck off which he later tumbled. I have, in my turn, wined and dined diplomats, civil servants, bankers and chief executives. And I will again because it helps me fulfill my half of journalists’ odd business bargain, in which human contact yields news and improves insight.
Larry Page returns to work at Google today as its chief executive, although he never went away in the first place, having spent a decade as “president of products” and part of the triumvirate that ran the company.
Still, with Eric Schmidt moving up to becoming “executive chairman” – usually an ambiguous term that means “the old chief executive who is not yet willing to relinquish the reins fully” – Mr Page appears to be back in charge of the company he co-founded with Sergey Brin.
The question is whether his return will reinvigorate Google to prevent it being knocked off its perch as the leading internet company by Facebook or others. Its search engine is still leader but search itself is increasingly under pressure.