Given that financial crises are caused by herd-like behaviour by banks, it is hard to know whether to be encouraged or dismayed by the latest mass shift – away from investment banking and toward retail and commercial banking.
The Bank for International Settlements annual report, published today, finds that one-third of banks that entered the financial crisis in 2007 as wholesale-funded or trading institutions switched to retail banking by 2012 (19 out of the 54 in its sample).
The global system for taxing multinational companies is broken, but no country wants to alter it too radically for fear of making it worse. That was my impression after hearing international tax experts gathered in Oxford this week to discuss reform.
Reform of corporate taxation has been thrust onto the political agenda in Europe and by controversy over the tax policies of companies such as Google and Starbucks. The ease with which they can shift intellectual property and royalty payments to low tax regimes has outraged politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.
The attempt by Pfizer to turn itself into a UK company for tax purposes by acquiring AstraZeneca has also drawn attention to the use of “tax inversion” by US companies. They want to use the cash piles held overseas to make acquisitions that allow them to change corporate nationality and reduce their taxes.
But while most countries agree that the system of global taxation in place since the 1920s is flawed, there was no consensus at the conference held by the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation on how to fix it. Instead, most prefer to play defence.
The New York attorney-general’s complaint against Barclays over the way it ran its dark pool seems to contain clear evidence of institutional investors being misled about the amount of “toxic liquidity” provided by high-frequency traders.
More broadly, however, it raises the question of how the original purpose of dark pools – to allow institutions to make block trades away from public markets where they would move the price – was subverted by investment banks.
It was fitting that when Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World, was overcome with emotion at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, having been acquitted of charges related to phone hacking, she was helped by the court matron. Only a tabloid case would feature a figure so reminiscent of old British institutions such as boarding schools and cottage hospitals.
Luis Suarez, right, and Giorgio Chiellini after clashing during their World Cup match. Photo: Reuters
If you bit someone at work – as Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez appeared to on Tuesday night – would you get sacked? It seems likely.
The Innovator’s Dilemma was published in 1997, so when The New Yorker last week printed a detailed dissection of disruptive innovation, the idea at the heart of Clayton Christensen’s book, my first reaction was: what took critics so long?
Clayton Christensen (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)
Clay Christensen is a gentle man, of devout Mormon faith, prone to sentimentality and beloved by many – not least for his lessons to students on how to find fulfilment, which he turned into an unexpected bestseller, How Will You Measure Your Life?
But the avuncular Harvard Business School star is hot under the collar about this week’s New Yorker attack on the book (The Innovator’s Dilemma) and theory (disruptive innovation) for which he is best known.
What seems to have made him particularly angry is the fact that the author, Jill Lepore, who is also a Harvard academic, did not drop by to chat to him about her detailed allegations that his theory does not stand up.
No-one emerges well from the legal battle between Goldman Sachs and Deeb Salem, its former mortgage trader who claims that his $8.25m bonus for 2010 amounted to severe underpayment. It is no wonder that Goldman tried to seal the documents in what it calls an “utterly ridiculous” case.
The problem for Goldman and other Wall Street firms is that they have encouraged that sense of entitlement among employees – one that strikes almost everyone outside Wall Street as delusional. Mr Salem’s claim is merely an extreme example of a much wider problem.
They tell you not to fix a meeting before 11am at the Lions advertising festival in Cannes because the guests will either have been up so late toasting their own creativity, or are so jet-lagged after flying in from Los Angeles, that they will not show up. I should have listened.
Isis infographic detailing attacks by type (Institute for the Study of War)
Chilling though it is to read how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) records its military and terrorist successes in a sort of company report, it is hardly surprising.
Isis, for all its brutality, is an organisation. Organisations need managing, and – in the words of management writer Peter Drucker – “what gets measured, gets managed”.
The Institute for the Study of War, the US-based group that analysed the Isis annual reports, actually headlined its briefing “Isis Annual Reports Reveal a Metrics-Driven Military Command”.
As interpreted by the institute, Isis’s metrics serve a similar purpose to those of a company.
Since the financial crisis, the only politically palatable response to corporate malfeasance has been to add more pages to the rule book. Last week, for example, George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, said he would make manipulation of foreign exchange and other benchmarks a criminal offence.
Outsiders have been marvelling at the uncanny skills of robots for decades. In 1978, commentators on the FT’s “Technical Page” were wowed by a machine called Puma (“programmable universal manipulator for assembly”) that had the “dexterity and accuracy [to] insert lamps into automobile instrument panels”. These days, Puma would look about as nimble as a first world war tank. My colleague Tanya Powley writes in the last of the FT’s series on robots at work that a Danish company has developed a machine that “can pack millions of eggs without crushing them”, while lightweight collaborative robots work alongside humans.
Missing, though, from most accounts of how automation will transform the workplace is a similar sense of wonder at the dexterity of managers as they adapt their human skills to the demands of the sophisticated machinery around them.
Welcome to the World Cup in Brazil, brought to you by Fifa, a corporate governance disaster that is also one of the most successful multinational enterprises on earth.
I met Carey Eaton only once, at a conference five weeks ago in Switzerland, far from Kenya, where he grew up, lived and built a thriving internet business. He was engaging, upbeat and generous with his time and knowledge.
When China’s Communist leaders under Deng Xiaoping launched their assault on the Tiananmen Square protesters in 25 years ago, they were supposedly following the socialist road and Marxist principles of proletarian rule. “Workers of all lands, unite!” declared Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1848 Communist Manifesto.