Finance The Trader: Russia's got us by the roubles

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IT MIGHT have been better all round if Laura hadn't removed Norman's life-history from the "Obviously made-up CVs" section of Rory's filing system. The look on Normski's face would have been a laugh, if nothing else, and laughs are in short supply round here at the moment.

The problem - surprise, surprise - is Russia, which is finding out the hard way that there's more to being capitalist than drinking Coke. Curiously no one there seems to have considered that it might be easier to reform if you change the people running the country, not just the name of their party. But that's politics for you: anyone bright enough to be good at it is bright enough to steer well clear.

The result of this stupidity is misery all round. "You're not wrong," says Neil. "I mean, we can kiss goodbye to our bonuses for a start." I gently point out that I was actually thinking about the man on the Moscow street, but Neil's having none of it. "They can't have lost more than a few hundred dollars each. That's sod all compared to what I was expecting to pull down this year. They've no right to be miserable at all."

He does have a point about the bonuses. The last time round, I effectively doubled my income for the year. This Christmas, I'll be surprised if there's enough in the coffers to pay for wrapping paper. Not that any of the big cheeses has said anything about how badly we've been hit by the problems in Moscow. Still, if BankAmerica and Deutsche have had to fess up to being caned on their exposure to the teetering former superpower, I find it hard to believe our lot have got away scot-free.

So we just have to sit and wait for the board to let us in on what's happening. "Or we could just find out about it in the Financial Times, as usual," says Laura, no doubt remembering previous occasions when the honchos "forgot" to tell their staff before they told the journalists. "It's so stupid," she continues. "They must realise how wound up everyone gets wondering if they're waving goodbye to their bonuses or maybe even their jobs, and all because someone's been going: `A loan, Mr Yeltsin? Of course. Take double. And don't worry about security.' "

Jenny the Junior stamps over to take the lunch orders, and announces she's going to the new sandwich place on the other side of the City. "It'll get me out of this dump for at least half an hour," she says. "Well, it's all you lot sitting around like someone's died, just coz you think your bonuses have gone walkabout. You'll be leaving flowers on the steps of the Stock Exchange next. Besides, the support staff don't ever get handouts anyway."

She hasn't gone far when Norman calls her back. "Everybody stay at your desks for a second. I want to have a quick meeting about this memo from upstairs. I think it will bring a smile to your faces."

Laura and I look at each other. Is this the bombshell we've been expecting?

Norman continues: "It's good news. The board is categorically denying that we have been in any way affected by the problems in Russia."

"Oh Laura," I say. "It's even worse than we expected."