Comment: The City could be made to pay for this piracy

As the story of Andrew Regan's assault on the Cooperative Wholesale Society draws towards its final denouement, the City needs to be asking itself some hard and searching questions. No apology is offered for returning, scratched record like, to this extraordinary saga or for the high morale tone being adopted in these columns, for we are looking, we believe, at a very significant City scandal here.

With the approach of a new Labour government, filled with reforming and high ethical zeal, the City needs this episode like a hole in the head. It is not just that Mr Regan's assault on the CWS is an act of unrestrained greed. That, perhaps, is what we must expect from the modern City. It is much worse than this, for it now transpires that the assault also involves unauthorised plunder of commercial secrets and confidences on an unprecedented scale. Seven boxes of the stuff have over the months been smuggled out of the CWS and delivered to order to Mr Regan and his henchmen.

This might amount to everyday practice for Mr Regan and his fellow conspirators, but can it really be par for the course at Hambros, Schroders, Travers Smith Braithwaite, Allen and Overy, Nomura, Clifford Chance and all the other top drawer City firms involved in this takeover? They might vainly protest now that the information supplied by Allan Green and others has not been of much use to them in their disreputable endeavour, but they lapped it up at the time.

Nor does the insistence of Hambro's and others that the information was provided "voluntarily", and that legal advice was taken on it all, provide any more than the lamest possible of excuses. Blinded by the fees on offer, said to amount to pounds 33m to Hambros alone in the event of success, these are organisations which have failed to ask the right questions either of themselves or their clients.

Did they know where the documents were coming from? And if they did, were they aware that the man supplying them had also sold a CWS contract to Mr Regan for pounds 2.85m which Mr Regan himself believed to be worth pounds 5m, the difference being pocketed by a shadowy offshore middleman?

Those that believe the City to be a place peopled only by greedy spivs will draw comfort for their view from this bid. If this were any old house being burgled by the City, then perhaps nobody would take that much notice. But it is not; it is the Coop. It is the people of the North, people on below average incomes, old Labour territory, honest, decent people with little understanding of offshore tax havens and high rolling financiers, people to whom the language of cost cutting, asset management, return on capital and shareholder value is as alien as a foreign tongue.

If it is not careful, the City will find itself punished for its act of piracy, and as usual, it will only have itself to blame. As for the bid itself, we can expect another day of mud flinging when the show returns to the High Court tomorrow, but it hard to see what Mr Regan can hope to salvage from the wreckage now.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

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

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore