Comment: Melmoth the Warrior has excelled himself

With Andrew Regan and his team in full flight and the Co-op promising to pursue them to their graves, the time has perhaps come to ask how the young financier, backed by all those highly paid City advisers, could so horribly have misjudged this extraordinary smash-and-grab raid.

The first setback came when the plans leaked. Though newspapers and share traders thrive on such things, leaking scarcely ever works to the advantage of the bidder, for it gives the target time to muster its defences and prepare the ground against invaders. In this case the leak was near disastrous. The Regan assault was in effect a consortium bid. Even when things are going to plan, consortium bids are notoriously difficult to keep on the rails. It only requires one of the moving parts to break ranks, or get cold feet, and the whole thing falls apart.

But perhaps the Regan camp's most serious mistake was to underestimate the opposition. Graham Melmoth, chief executive of the CWS, has proved a feisty and highly effective fighter. If Mr Regan believed the CWS was such an enfeebled organisation that it would simply roll over and let its tummy be tickled, he could not have been more wrong. The Co-op has excelled itself with one of the most hard-hitting, irreverent and masterful defence campaigns in years. Using the press and the courts as its main battle weapons, the Co-op has managed to see off the bid before it was ever tabled.

Nor is Mr Melmoth prepared to back off now that he has won and allow the City to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. Virtually every financial regulator in the land from the Inland Revenue's special investigations unit to the DTI, from Imro to the Serious Fraud Office, and from the Securities and Futures Authority to the Stock Exchange, is being prevailed upon to investigate the matter and act. No wonder Nomura got cold feet. It's in enough trouble already back home in Japan without a British financial scandal to cope with as well.

Now that the balloon has gone up, we are being treated to an extraordinary and disreputable display of City advisers running for cover. According to the Co-op, almost no legal undertaking is too great for these people to sign if it means keeping these matters from coming to court. Never darken our doors again? Yes, yes, we'll sign that, no problem.

Mr Melmoth's sense of rage at the disloyalty and thievery of one of his own executives is one thing. But it is nothing against the anger he feels towards the City for its fee-hungry willingness to enter this sordid conspiracy, knowingly making use of stolen CWS material. He is right to push for the strongest possible action and retribution. This has been a shameful episode for the City, matching some of its darkest moments.

One good thing may have come out of it, however. The affair has blown away some dusty old cobwebs within the Co-operative movement, forcing it to re-examine its role and purpose in the modern world. Change is now inevitable. The only question is what shape it will take.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee