Royal Mail sell-off: Sketch - Chinese walls are all Greek to MPs
The row had all but turned into one about the nature of modern capitalism
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 30 April 2014
A bit puzzling, this “Chinese wall” business. On Monday Lazard and Co’s chief executive William Rucker insisted that the separation between his bit of the business, the Government’s lead adviser on the Royal Mail sell-off, and the other bit, which made £8m profit by flogging its shares within a week of it happening, was “complete and utter”.
One theory is that the term derives from the Great Wall, so mighty it can be seen clearly from outer space. The problem about this kind is you can’t see it all. Instead we have to take it on trust. Are Mr Rucker and his colleague from Lazard Asset Management, Alan Custis, forbidden from using the same lift, the same golf club, or attending the same group-wide bonding weekends in case they should inadvertently exchange market-sensitive information?
On Monday it was hard to tell. For one thing they were separated at the hearing by the more solid barrier of Richard Cormack, who has a few Chinese wall issues of his own since he works for Goldman Sachs, a group which not only also advised the Government on the sale but, as Margaret Hodge established in “an hour on the internet”, is actually part-owned by some of the newly named 16 “priority investors” in Royal Mail.
Ms Hodge suggested that these incestuous relationships left the general public feeling that “this little group” had “made a killing at the expense of the taxpayer” in a way “which just feels wrong”.
But oddly, it was Cormack’s answer that made you realise that the row had all but turned into one about the nature of modern capitalism.
Of course, said Cormack, there had been “no impropriety at all”. But then he added: “It’s not surprising as we are a large listed global financial institution, financial institutions should invest in us. And that we should be targeting similar large institutional investors to buy Royal Mail.” It all sounded reasonable. But it did little to refute the idea that what Ms Hodge memorably called an “institutional masonic lodge” had played a crucial role in the sale.
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
- 5 Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: 'These are completely fake' say singer's representatives
A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Israel to appropriate 400 hectares in West Bank for ‘state use’
Kate Upton nude pictures leak: Model's representatives 'looking into' authenticity of naked images
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...
£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...
£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...