Hannam should have swallowed his medicine


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The Independent Online

OUTLOOK: When it comes to Mr Justice Warren’s views on that arch-dealmaker Ian Hannam, withering is hardly strong enough a word.

All the way through Mr Hannam’s email-gate affair, he and his PR team have been banging on about how his honesty was never doubted by the regulator – as if a £450,000 fine for stock market abuse should not be seen as questioning of a man’s character.

With a wit drier than the oil-rich Kurdistan deserts at the heart of the case, Mr Justice Warren looks down his half-moon spectacles at this claim, turns it over in his fingers and crumbles it to dust.

“We note that considerable emphasis has been placed by Mr Hannam on the fact that [the regulator] did not challenge his honesty and integrity. As a man of honesty and integrity, it was therefore surprising to hear certain aspects of his evidence…”

For all Mr Hannam’s irrepressible character, honed in the SAS reserves, it will surely take him a while to stop wincing at that one.

I have no idea how much Mr Hannam spent on legal advice for this case, on top of the fine that he was attempting to overturn. But, for a man so well-versed in geo-political and high financial strategising for his clients’ deals, his decision to put himself through a mangle turned by a forensic QC and a panel of judges seems a spectacular error with more than a hint of hubris.

Particularly when you read how woefully unprepared he appears to have been.

The panel variously described him as “muddled”, “unreliable” and “argumentative.” His evidence was “unfocused” and that of a “man much more interested in and comfortable with the large picture than with the detail”. Details which repeatedly undid him when his evidence was properly scrutinised.

Perhaps being cheered on by so many adoring senior friends in the City wafted a cumulonimbus through his powers of judgment. Those allies were sticking by him as usual at that ultimate City muster station, the first evening at the Chelsea Flower Show last week. When he resigned from JPMorgan to clear his name, he received a standing ovation following a thundering farewell speech: “Classic Hannam,” the audience concluded.

For the FSA, or its successor, the Financial Conduct Authority, the decision will be a huge relief.

As it had argued to the tribunal, overturning this finding could have opened the floodgates to appeals against its other judgments. That seemed a  rather desperate defence. But Mr Hannam was arguably its biggest scalp, taken at a time when the authority was at a low ebb.

For all the stress and time that the case has taken him, Mr Hannam has, throughout the process, has been busier than ever, investing and advising on major deals. Which is another reason why the appeal was so wrongheaded. Had he taken his medicine more humbly back in 2012, we would have all forgotten it by now.