This morning, we learn that Standard Chartered bank have signed a confession note that they laundered $250 billion.
Given that Standard Chartered’s CEO told shareholders it was only $14 million, that’s an accounting change that would embarrass Bernie Madoff, and there’s not been a single News International-style police dawn raid to arrest any board director.
Instead, the shareholders have paid off the board’s accusers to the tune of $350 million.
There’s now no-one left in UK banking that isn’t covered in scandal. HSBC has already admitted that they laundered gobs of drug money.
And I hope I’m not alone in asking, in the case of Barclays lowering its LIBOR levels two days before its £7 billion capital raising: can someone with inside information manipulate a price in the direction the price will move once the information is announced and it not be investigated?
But again, in both of these cases, the shareholder covered the sins of the board members, £290 million from Barclays’ shareholders and HSBC’s shareholders are expected to pay almost $1 billion.
While it may concern that banks are more willing to pay fines than cover the coalition’s bank levy, we have to take our hats off to the prescient churchwardens of St Paul’s. Anticipating the lack of judicial action, they removed Occupy before all this guiltless activity by the banks.
The trend was already there: in January, the FSA’s judgment of RBS collapse that not a single non-executive director of said institution deserved a reprimand. The churchwardens were correct to anticipate this would be the prevailing trend.
Hannah Arendt once wrote that “people change their morals like table manners” and the behaviour of shareholders writing blank cheques for the CEOs is clearly the latest example. Moreover, churchwardens of an established church have learned the lessons of history.
Isn’t the present judicial stance towards bank directors a secular revival of Catholic indulgences for the St Paul’s City board member flock? In this modern secular version, however, the shareholders pay: it’s too medieval for sinful board members to be out of pocket.
And with the early removal of Occupy, the established church is safe from anyone in Occupy’s tent becoming the next Martin Luther.