The stock market greeted the news that three UK-based banks have been named by the FBI in its indictment against various Fifa officials with a shrug of its metaphorical shoulders.
The share prices of Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered haven’t exactly suffered in the past five days.
The FBI didn’t, after all, allege any wrongdoing on their part and it is not the banks that the agency is after. Fifa and its officials are the ones in its crosshairs.
Two of the named banks have apparently hurriedly launched internal investigations. But their doing so is really only what you would expect, given the run-ins they have all had of late with the US authorities.
As they well know, this is only the first step in what could be a very long process, and it would only take one of America’s myriad regulators to sniff a payday for things to change dramatically.
Were that to happen, the standard course of action would be for those institutions targeted to pay very heavy fines in return for plea deals.
The Fifa bigwigs facing charges
The Fifa bigwigs facing charges
1/14 Jeffrey Webb, 50, Cayman Iskands
A Fifa vice president. His arrest came as a big surprise, as he had been tipped as the man to clean up Fifa once Blatter departs. Webb is also president of Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and the Cayman Islands Football Association
2/14 Costas Takkas, 58, UK
A British citizen, Mr Takkas is currently an attache to the Concacaf president. He was previously general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association, of which Mr Webb is president
3/14 Jack Warner, 72, (pictured), Daryan Warner, 46 and Daryll Warner, 40, Trinidad & Tobago
The former Fifa vice president and head of Concacaf was a dominant force in football for 30 years, but was suspended from his roles in 2011 amid accusations of corruption dating back to the 1980s and an investigation by Fifa's ethics committee. He later resigned, ending the proceedings against him. Daryan Warner, the son of Jack Warner is also believed to have co-operated with the FBI. He pleaded guiltyin October 2013 to wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions, forfeiting $1.1m. Daryll Warner, another of Jack Warner's sons, he pleaded guilty to various offences in July 2013. A former Fifa development officer, he lost the job in 2012 after his father's resignation amid corruption allegations. He and his brother both face up to 10 years in prison
4/14 Charles Blazer, 70, USA
The former Concacaf general secretary reportedly turned "supergrass" to help the FBI inestigation, using a bugging device hidden inside a key fob to record meetigs with his Fifa colleagues at the London 2012 Olympics. In November 2013 he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and income tax evasion. Seriously ill with colon cancer
5/14 Rafael Esquivel, 68, Venezuela
Executive committee member of the South American Football Confederetion (Conmebol). It is alleged that officials at Conmebol, which organises the Copa America, received bribes from marketing executives
6/14 Eugenio Figueredo, 83, USA/Uruguay
The Fifa vice president and executive committee member is a big name in world football, having previously been at the head of Conmebol and the Uruguayan Football Association. A former right-back
7/14 Nicolas Leoz, 86, Paraguay
A former Fifa executive committee member and Conmebol president. When he retired in 2013 for health reasons, he said: "I've not stolen so much as a cent"
8/14 Eduardo Li, 56, Costa Rica
President of the Costa Rican Football Federation. He was elected to Fifa's executive commitee in March
9/14 José Maria Marin, 83, Brazil
The former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation is also a member of Fifa's committee for Olympic tournaments
10/14 Julio Rocha, 64, Nicaragua
Fifa development officer. Previously president of his country's football federation
11/14 José Hawilla, 71, Brazil
The owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a sports marketing conglomerate, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy in 2014. Two of his companies - Traffic Sports International Inc and Traffic Sports USA Inc - have also pleaded guilty
12/14 Aaron Davidson, 44, USA
President of Traffic Sports USA, is a large promoter of football events in America
13/14 Alejandro Burzaco, 50, (pictured), Hugo Jinkis, 70 and Mariano Jinkis, 40, Argentina
Alejandro Burzaco, a media executive who controls Torneos y Competencias, a sports marketing business. Hugo Jinkis, is the president of Full Play Group, a sports marketing business in Argentina. His son Mariano, is vice president
14/14 José Margulies (AKA José Lazaro), 75, Brazil
Although he is in broadcasting, it is alleged he served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and Fifa officials
The scale of these fines means that the banks will want to take precautions, at least while the investigation is running.
There has been much commentary on the role that Fifa’s sponsors might or might not play in forcing change at football’s global governing body; the multi-billion dollar corporations that have paid huge sums to associate their brands with the World Cup.
But the banks could ultimately play a far more important role. Remember the fuss last year when this newspaper revealed that HSBC had closed the accounts of some Syrians working or studying in Britain. Then there was the Finsbury Park Mosque, which “fell outside the bank’s risk appetite”.
If that’s the case, how will Fifa and its officials sit within HSBC’s risk appetite? Or Barclays’ or Standard Chartered’s, or any Western bank not wanting to incur the wrath of the US authorities?
At the very least, it’s probably fair to assume that any sizeable transaction involving Fifa or one of its officials will trigger a warning light, at least while the FBI’s investigation is ongoing, which could make things inconvenient for the organisation, to say they least. Prudence would seem to demand nothing less.
Cut-price Lloyds shares for hard-working families
Roll up, roll up. Yes, you lucky people are about to be handed a one-off chance to buy shares in a bank your money has bought once already.
Instead of selling to the City at a discount, as it did when it first sold Lloyds shares, your Government has decided to sell to you. Aren’t you pleased?
Given where the shares are now, it will have to be a pretty big discount to match the price that institutions were able to buy at when the Government first started the lengthy process of clawing back the money spent by Gordon Brown to keep the thing afloat during the financial crisis.
But perhaps the Government will decide that it isn’t unreasonable to turn back the clock and sell at something close to the 73.6p break-even point, regardless of the fact that Lloyds shares are now testing 90p.
There’s nothing like handing the voters a guaranteed profit to make them love you. It could even be argued that it’s no more than we deserve, given the damage the bank has done in the past, and the vast amount of money diverted from schools, hospitals, policing, the armed forces, insert your favourite state service here.
With priority apparently set to be given to investors wanting to spend around £1,000, the profits from the “privatisation” of the last part of Lloyds in state hands should at least be shared widely.
But perhaps not widely enough. The whole exercise leaves a bit of a nasty taste, because you’ll still need a decent amount of money to join the party – the sort of sum that the people who suffered most from the banking crisis, and the brutal recession that it triggered, can’t hope to afford. As has been the case throughout the years of austerity, they will be left out in the cold.
A solution needed to all those empty bedrooms
A number of commentators have noted that if the UK could deal with under-occupation of its housing stock it would go some way towards solving the housing crisis.
The latest is Legal & General, the insurer, which says there are 5.3 million under-occupied homes in the UK, with 7.7 million bedrooms going spare.
It calls for a national plan to create more suitable properties, combined with incentives for “last-time buyers” to encourage them to downsize, freeing up their previous spacious residences for those “hard-working families” politicians keep banging on about.
Fine and dandy, but it is interesting to note that L&G’s study finds that a lot of people “leave it late”, with inertia holding them back from downsizing.
Is it any wonder? The last meaningful attempt at reforming the messy house sale process south of Hadrian’s Wall was Labour’s disastrous introduction of “sellers’ packs”. No one has really tried to grasp the nettle since then.
Last year a poll found that buying a home was rated as more stressful than bankruptcy, divorce or even bereavement. So it’s no wonder that many older people choose to stay put, and that might not change even if more suitable properties are made available.Reuse content