The City Diary: Off to the races – again: Fast-track City trader whose 'addiction' won't let go

Slackbelly exposes The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the Square Mile
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The Independent Online

It's Cheltenham Festival week, during which race-goers will quaff 20,000 bottles of champagne, 30,000 bottles of wine, 240,000 bottles of beer and lager and 220,000 pints of Guinness. While around 12,000 people each day will sit down to lunch, the remainder of the crowd will eat into a pile of burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches which, if laid end to end, would stretch almost three miles.

Race sponsorship is also bubbling away, totalling £1.68m – up from £1.63m last year and £1.62m in 2008.

Still, my thoughts turn to amateur jockey-cum-commodity trader-cum-entrepreneur Sam Waley-Cohen, who after finishing fifth on Liberthine in the 2007 Grand National, made a promise to concentrate on his day job. It's a promise he hasn't kept.

Despite now running his own dental group – Portman Healthcare – Waley-Cohen will be at Cheltenham this week with five rides, including Long Run in the RSA Chase.

"When you're young and healthy you have to keep going," Waley-Cohen tells me. "It's an addiction that I can't give up."

So has he ever lost any of his own teeth after a riding accident?

"Not yet, but looking around the weighing room there are plenty of marketing opportunities."

Lloyds investors on course to cook up trouble in court

Are we about to see a gaggle of class action suits against the banks?

A group of UK shareholders of Royal Bank of Scotland – who have already engaged US law firm Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins – are waiting until after the general election before kick-starting their case. And now I hear rumblings of a similar action being cooked up by investors in Lloyds. They feel royally legged over by Gordon Brown and the bank's then chairman, Sir Victor Blank, the pairing that brokered Lloyds TSB's disastrous takeover of HBOS in 2008. "We have to ask what chief executive Eric Daniels was doing while Brown and Blank were stitching this up," says one source with knowledge of the plan,

That little gem of a merger created Lloyds Banking Group – which, in its first five months, issued two profit warnings as the true horror of HBOS's woeful loan book became apparent. The bank then needed to be bailed out by the taxpayers, who now own 43 per cent of the company. Another source says: "In these cases, it all boils down to who knew what, when." Developing....

A mole at blue-blood Cazenove? Surely some mistake

Malcolm Calvert the former Cazenove partner who is appealing against his conviction for insider dealing, supposedly had a mole inside Her Majesty's broker.

Will the FSA now pursue him? It won't say, but a good place to start might be to look for common names on the list of Cazenove bankers who advised on the six suspicious deals (something the bank's head of compliance, Michael Reynolds, says he hasn't done).

A further investigation would be unfortunate for the blue-blooded bank, which over the years has been no stranger to controversy. It is easily forgotten that its chairman, David Mayhew, was charged during the Guinness scandal of the 1980s. The charges were later dropped.

Still, there's always room for looking on the bright side. Here's Caz's City PR firm, Brunswick, desperately spinning the Calvert conviction. "Jury back – acquitted in seven of 12 counts".

Microsoft shows off new, er, piracy figures

To last week's Economist's Redesigning Business summit, where John Mangelaars, a Microsoft vice-president, gave a talk called "reinventing around customers".

After he'd finished, delegates were treated to a video on how popular the company's new Windows 7 operating system is – and, to illustrate the point, the camera panned to a league table showing how often the software is downloaded from a website called thepiratebay.org. That would be the same piratebay that the Los Angeles Times called "one of the world's largest facilitators of illegal downloading". So is Microsoft now endorsing it?

"There will be no official line on this, no announcement," snaps Mangelaars, when I ask for a view, before turning on a flunky and seething: "Why was that there?" He then storms off. Yet another system crash, it seems.

RIP Sir Brian – a better class of banker

I'm sad to learn of the death of Sir Brian Pitman, the former Lloyds TSB chairman, who I'm sure was devastated by what Gordon Brown did to his bank. Pitman turned Lloyds into one of the country's most profitable retail banks, and was active in the City until he died. He worked for Morgan Stanley, had just agreed to chair Virgin Money, and recently joined David Cameron's Economic Recovery Commission. He was a different class of banker – even receiving a different class of junk mail. I'm reminded that the Independent Banking Advisory Service (IBAS) used to receive anonymous poems bating Sir Brian: "Lloyds Bank took my business away, So at home all day I have to stay" went one. Not exactly Keats, is it?

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