View from City Road: Modest 5m pounds for Sir John

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The Independent Online
By the end of this month, Sir John Cuckney's fund for victims of the Maxwell affair should be paying out the first cheques to pensioners. The pounds 5.25m raised in the six weeks since letters went out will allow the fund to help the so-called 'ex gratia' pensioners, mainly older people who are not in schemes but have been supported since retirement by voluntary payments from their former employers.

But pounds 5.25m seems a modest response from the business community, given the scale of the theft. Yesterday Sir John refused to make a judgement, saying he would wait until October before assessing the flow of money. His 300 letters went out just before the holidays, and the responses included a large number of deferrals until the recipients' next board meetings in September or October, he said.

The money has been raised from a wide range of companies. Sir John started with letters to members of the FT-SE 100, and donations came from 'major public companies unconnected with Mr Maxwell' as well as from City firms with a role in the affair.

There are even a few private individuals, including unsolicited cheques from pensioners. Anonymity has helped, since public donations are seen as conscience money and admissions of guilt.

The fund is to provide relief for pensioners rather than to return the stolen money, so to be successful it does not have to attract hundreds of millions. On the other hand, pounds 5.25m is far from enough to finance pensioners' urgent cash needs. It is time for the City in particular to dig deeper into its pockets.

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