Don't hedge your bets, get a Leeson calling card


THE LATEST unit of currency in the City is a Leeson, formerly known as £100. It's the market price for one of the detained dealer's business cards. Apparently City traders see possession of a card as the ultimate trophy, beating a Porsche by a mile as proof of macho credentials; how the owner dealt with Nick Lee-son and lived to tell the tale.

The demand is so fierce that unscrupulous characters have already taken to producing fake Leeson cards like the one below. The fake is easily detectable, since Leeson never worked for Baring Brothers, but for Baring Securities. Other get-rich-quick merchants have produced the Leeson T- shirt, depicting the man's face above the words "Natural Born Killer". Another features the Barings logo and the slogan "The Leesoning Bank". More what might be called derivative products are expected.

STILL with Barings: members of the internal audit team were among the first to contact headhunters and rival firms. To convince future employers it was "nothing to do with us", one senior escapee offered interested parties the chance to peruse the latest, and highly confidential, internal audit report - which warned of potential difficulties at the Singapore operations.

Singapore sling

AND FINALLY, it's surprising that the name Tarling has not been bandied about during the numerous discussions over whether the young trader will be returned to Singapore, and whether his former bosses will also be arraigned. Older readers may recall that Dick Tarling, the managing director of Slater Walker's Singapore subsidiary, was extradited and served some months in Changi prison. But a London magistrate ruled that his boss, Jim Slater, was not liable - though vicious tongues took to calling him Changi Jim.

WHATEVER you may think of Golden Virginia Bottomley, there's no doubt her brother did a grand job before leaving his post as marketing director of Eurotunnel last week. Le Shuttle, which whizzes you and your car through the Channel Tunnel in a mere 35 minutes, has been an amazing success (though rumours that Sir Alastair Morton paid the French seamen to go on strike and thus divert travellers to the tunnel, can be dismissed with contumely).

Indeed, Eurotunnel is braced for an overflow of prospective travellers in the run-up to Easter, when it will still be running only two car trains an hour. The delay in moving up to four an hour is largely due to the absurdly exaggerated safety features that have to be built into each wagon. If anything like the same criteria were applied to the ro-ro car ferries, which have killed an average of 100 passengers a year over the past eight years, there wouldn't be a ship left crossing the Channel.

Delay or not, the British still can't adjust to the idea of simply turning up to get to the Great Abroad without booking in advance. So far, our continental friends have proved much keener than the tradition-minded Brits to use such a new form of transport. My own feeling is that Le Shuttle ought to be disguised as an electrically powered version of Thomas the Tank Engine to soothe their anxieties. This is not as absurd as it sounds: a senior executive of the French railways suggested that they disguise one of their TGV superfast trains as Mickey Mouse in an effort to sell them to Florida to whisk passengers from Miami to Disneyworld.

Terminal tiffin ONE WAY in which our travelling habits have changed is in the food we eat, at airports anyway. BAA, the former British Airports Authority, chose 10 categories of award "to show the way catering has moved forward". You have to go to Aberdeen for the friendliest service and to Glasgow for the "lightest croissant" - now there's a cultural revolution for you - before whisking back to Heathrow for the lightest Danish pastry and the best cappuccino. But no mention of that old stand-by, "a nice cup of tea".

OUR ESTEEMED contemporary, the Daily Telegraph, appears to have got itself into a pot-kettle situation in commenting on Professor Stephen Littlechild's little naughty. "Had such a blatant piece of double-dealing taken place in the private sector," it thundered, " it is unlikely Mr Major would merely say it showed the system was working."

I can't for the life of me recall whether the paper was equally animated when Conrad Black, its majority shareholder, upset the market by selling a whole heap of shares just before he revealed that his papers would join the newspaper price-cutting war - a decision that had quite as much effect as Professor Littlechild's intervention.

Clean sweep

GOOD old Brussels. Just as you think that, in the words of the old song, "they've gone about as far as they can go", they come up with a novel twist. According to Simon Jeffreys, an employment specialist with McKenna, the City solicitors, cleaning ladies can now claim the full package of employment rights - written contracts, statutory notice, maternity rights, redundancy pay, the lot. I started to say: "right on, why should cleaners not be treated properly?", before I realised the full absurdity of the whole thing.

LAST week I said that Nicholas Baring, chairman of Commercial Union, was a member of Lloyd's. This was wrong: he is not, nor has ever been, an underwriting member. Sincere apologies.

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