Letters: Greed is still good in the amoral world of banking

These letters appear in the Saturday 1st March edition of the Independent

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The financial sector has shown its true colours in the past few days. Its main driver is greed, with total absence of compassion, integrity or honour.

In the financial sector it is accepted that despite the business making losses, the top employees still get large bonuses. 

RBS was saved by money from the Government, ie money from the whole country, which could have otherwise been spent on projects of value for ordinary people.

Shady, immoral or illegal activities come to light and fines are imposed. Again, these fines come out of money originally provided by the general public.

RBS, still afloat only because of money from the public, is making huge losses. Despite this, a huge sum is put aside for “bonuses”.

Barclays is still showing a loss and is laying off 7,000 lower-paid staff but at the same time is increasing bonuses by 10 per cent (to the highest-paid staff). The Government seems to think that restricting bonuses to once the annual salary is a punishment, even when the annual salary is £1m.

One of the factors that appears to have influenced Standard Life in looking at possibly moving out of Scotland is that, if the vote is yes, the tax regime might include increasing tax for the higher earners.

Even pension fund managers have been known to give themselves a large bonus, which is almost the same as stealing money which should have gone into funds to provide better pensions for those who pay in their hard-earned cash.

I have been told, by someone in the financial sector, that only by paying bonuses can they insure that people work hard. What an insult to the rest of society. Doctors, nurses, teachers, lecturers, farmers, fishermen, miners, police, builders, garbage collectors and almost everybody not in finance work hard without ever getting a bonus.

In no other business would senior staff take pay rises (and certainly not bonuses) if their business was making a loss. The financial sector is amoral.

Dr Evan Lloyd, Edinburgh 

The bonus pot at RBS of £500m is beyond belief. Every year, when bailed-out banks pay themselves eye-watering sums, banker apologists in the media trot out the same well-worn cliché. They say we need to pay this money to stop good staff leaving.

The bankers being paid bonuses at RBS have presided over six consecutive years of losses. Some bankers have been involved in the mis-selling of PPI and rigging the Libor rate, defrauding everyone. If these are the “right” people, who knows what the wrong people would do.

Most working people have had years of wage cuts and austerity to pay for the bank bailout. Bankers now get bonuses simply for turning up to work.

The blame for the banking crisis lies at the door of Labour and Tory politicians who, after six years and a £1.2 trillion taxpayer bailout, are still allowing bankers to dictate the rules.

Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee

Let me get this straight

Despite reporting an £8.2bn pre-tax loss and despite huge losses for six consecutive years and despite the £45bn taxpayer bailout and despite the fact that shares are now worth 326p (and the taxpayer paid 500p per share) and despite the RBS chief executive eloquently describing the situation as “We are too expensive, too bureaucratic and we need to change”, the intention is to pay out £576m in bonuses.

It all makes perfect sense. Does RBS stand for Right Bunch of Shysters?

Alex Taylor, London W5

Immigration is not UK's big problem

Net immigration rose by 200,000 last year – where’s the problem? We know that immigration is good for our economy and that immigrants make a substantial net contribution.

During the past year we have seen record falls in unemployment and our economy has been growing faster than those of other European nations. So where is the problem?

The problem seems to be that our infrastructure, particularly the NHS, hasn’t grown to match the increase in our population. Even if net immigration were reduced to zero, our infrastructure would still be under strain.

But we are a wealthy nation growing wealthier, in no small part due to immigration, so is it too simplistic to ask why we haven’t been investing enough of this extra wealth in our infrastructure?

Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon

In 2009, Gordon Brown, following the publication of a poll showing immigration was the biggest issue cited by defecting voters, and perhaps realising he was coming up to an election he was unlikely to win, upped the ante on immigration and launched an attack on the student visa system.

In what could be seen as a desperate game of one-upmanship, David Cameron’s last bet was a promise to reduce net migration to under 100,000.

When decisions like this are taken by politicians to win elections, rather than in response to evidence or as a step to developing a sensible and achievable result and a long-lasting national strategy, we sadly end up with squabbling, recriminations and broken promises.

David Wilkins, London W12

We are certainly not alone

Your editorial (“Earth 2.0?”, 28 February), commenting on the discovery of 715 new planets, concludes that the discovery of signs of life on such a planet “would raise the deepest philosophical questions about our own place in the universe” and “would mean that... in all likelihood, we are not alone. And that would change everything.”

It is difficult to know what you mean. We are part of the universe, not separate from it. We are composed of elements that probably occur everywhere. We are products of the universe. We probably represent an example of an assemblage of molecules that in time would arise inevitably in certain conditions. And we are not alone – look at the myriad life forms on Earth.

Newton’s contribution to the Enlightenment was the demonstration that the Earth is not unique, and that the same physical laws apply elsewhere, perhaps everywhere, in the universe. So let us go another step and recognise that the laws of life are probably universal too. Identification of another 715 planets, including warm damp ones, changes nothing.

Gavin P Vinson, London N10

You report on the 715 planets newly found – of which four are “neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, which we must assume to be essential ingredients for life”. I do not profess to be an expert, but is it not conceivable for life forms to exist that do not depend on water nor on the other elements or compounds necessary for life on Earth?

I remember an episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk and his cohorts arrived at a planet where the life forms were silicon-based and mistaken for canisters. In the words often attributed to Spock: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.” When we talk of planets suitable to support life, we should qualify “life” with those words.

Stephen Wright, Pinner, London

Time for rethink on how we treat animals

I found Bob Comis’s disquiet on being a livestock farmer (“Farming confessional”, 26 February) interesting, including all the hoops he’s going through to justify what he does.

He has an idea that “conscientious animal farming is necessary for a transition towards a vegan world”. Surely, being part of an industry that produces 60 billion animals a year as a “crop” makes him part of the problem rather than part of the solution?

He feels he is betraying the 500 pigs he breeds, fattens and trucks to slaughter each year. As a vegan, I agree. I suggest he stops being part of an industry that uses animals as a product. His conscience will let him rest far easier and the vegan world he hopes for will come that tiny bit closer.

Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent

With 5,000 animals being killed each year in European zoos (report, 27 February) it’s obvious that the aim of zoos’ breeding programmes is not to breed animals so they can be rehabilitated to the wild, but to breed them so they can be gawked at. If zoos were genuinely seeking to “save” species they would be rehabilitating them to the wild, not killing them.

When circuses came under fire for imprisoning “exotic” animals, zoos needed a reason to enable them to continue confining them. Hence the “breeding programmes” that they are quick to mention whenever a new baby rhino, lion or giraffe is born. The truth is that nothing attracts zoo patrons– and their money – like a new “wild” baby.

If we genuinely want to conserve species we need to conserve their habitat.

Jenny Moxham, Monbulk, Victoria, Australia

The Scots won't have to switch off BBC

“Vote ‘Yes’ and you will lose the BBC, Scots are warned”, you report (27 February). “Vote ‘Yes’ and you will lose the BBC, unless you have a satellite dish, Scots are warned”, surely?

Goff Sargent, Loughborough, Leicestershire

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