Pembroke: FNN, cable and fable

AMERICA's defunct Financial News Network, the all-business cable channel that was merged into the more professional CNBC two years ago, always did seem to be two steps behind the day's events on Wall Street.

It now turns out the real news was happening off-camera.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission this week charged four former FNN executives with fraud for allegedly manipulating the company's results in 1989 and 1990. The network, which also owned the United Press International news wire service, managed to double its reported profits by shifting assets back and forth between its subsidiaries, finally declaring bankruptcy in 1990 with losses of dollars 72m.

The SEC, however, stresses that FNN appears not to have misled investors who watched the network for news about the markets. Well, at least, not deliberately.

KENNETH CLARKE, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, never watches telly. This enlightening information emerged at yesterday's BT prospectus launch when Mr Clarke was asked what he thought of the advertising campaign depicting the comedian Mel Smith as the bungling Inspector Morose.

'I don't know. I never watch television,' said the Chancellor. 'Were I in the market for shares, television would not have been the medium through which to market to me.'

We must hope that someone does. Or else it is circa pounds 15m down the drain.

We have a banking ombudsman and an insurance ombudsman. Now there is another to add to the list of consumer complaints organisations - a funeral ombudsman.

The new appointment was announced yesterday by the Funeral Standards Council, which is concerned at declining standards in the pounds 1bn burial business. Overpricing is the main complaint.

A WONDERFUL little item tucked away in the Public and Legal Notices section of Monday's London Evening Standard. It concerns the bankrupcy of a certain Alinuddina Siddiqui, who used - wait for it - 116 different names before going under in 1987. Mr Siddiqui, unemployed and a former civil servant who also lived at four London addresses, went bust owing pounds 122,000.

The receivers have retrieved dollars 64,000 which they would like to distribute to creditors of the man's numerous aliases. They have until 9 July to come forward.

THE MAGAZINE Financial World has named its European chief executive of the year after polling 300 analysts. He is Alan Jackson, the Australian brought to London two years ago to head BTR.

Of the dozen finalists, six were chief executives of British companies. Others nominated were Peter Davis of Reed Elsevier, David Lyon of Bowater, Brian Pitman of Lloyds Bank, James Ross of Cable & Wireless and David Sainsbury of J Sainsbury.

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