Letters: Time to punish those at top for banking scandals

These letters appear in the 15 November issue of The Independent

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Let’s get something straight. The foreign exchange and Libor scandals (“Shame in the City: £2.6bn fine leaves London’s reputation in tatters”, 13 November) did not start and stop with a handful of overpaid adolescents engaged in deliberate wrongdoing for personal gain.

The trading floor is open plan. Traders sit on desks. Fellow traders who sit two feet away know what colleagues are up to. The desk head knows the behaviour of the people on his or her team – their character, their attitudes, their strengths and their weaknesses. Similarly, the head of trading walks the floor, takes in the activity, checks unusual gains and losses, and is fully aware of outbursts, happy and otherwise.

For such wrongdoing to persist, it must be because either it was condoned by leadership of the company’s trading room or the executives responsible on the floor were monumentally incompetent.

Similarly, for this to persist without intervention from the CEO suggests that  senior management either did not know, did not care to know or knew and enjoyed the ride. A final possibility is that banking activities have simply become too complex for a CEO to be expected  to know.

As with every scandal to come to light, one must ask: did senior management know? If they knew they were complicit, if they did not know they were incompetent. And if banks have become too complex for anyone to be expected to know then they are too big to manage.

The first two argue for an immediate ban from the industry of a long list of bankers at multiple levels. The last argues for an immediate break-up of the banks.

Let regulators take their pick but they must get off the fence. We need not wait for a criminal act. Regulators can improve accountability by ensuring that these people never work in finance again. Can anyone explain why they should not do so?

Robert Jenkins

Senior Fellow, Better Markets, London W9

 

Yet another round of risibly small punishments for the usual purveyors of financial disservices. Shall we compile a list of the significant activities for which they haven’t been fined, investigated (with adverse findings), or otherwise censured over the past 15 years or so?

No, I couldn’t think of any either. How about some really eye-watering sanctions, such as one per cent of global turnover (well within the compass of the Competition and Markets Authority)? Ah, but that would hardly be of benefit to all of those institutional shareholders who invest our money in these dysfunctional entities, or, by extension, us, would it? 

Jeremy Redman

London SE6

 

I was most surprised to read that the banks had been allowed to negotiate their latest round of fines. Presumably this was necessary in order to ensure that they were able to make repayments. Perhaps they ought to consider taking out some kind of payment protection insurance…

Julian Self

Milton Keynes

 

Miliband takes his eye off the ball again

If Ed Miliband is convinced that Ukip intends to privatise the NHS, he has clearly not read its leaflet: “What a Ukip Government will do”. Under the section on the National Health Service, it states: “We will stop further use of PFI in the NHS and encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early where this is affordable.”

In any case, why so much concentration on Ukip? Mr Miliband stands to lose far more support to the Scottish National Party. Could it be that he has taken his eye off the ball again?

Edward Thomas

Eastbourne 

 

The point about maths is it gives you options

A number of distinguished commentators have sought to condemn the Education Secretary for her comments about the importance of studying maths, but I think that they have all missed the point. I am qualified to speak on this as I am a professor of electronic engineering who also has a degree in history of art, which I studied part-time while continuing to work.

The critics have implied that the Secretary of State was downplaying the importance of culture and the arts generally but that is not what she was saying. She simply stated what to me is the “bleeding obvious”: if you don’t study A-level maths then you close off a number of options. If you do, then all your options remain open.

I am happy to confirm that studying history of art is challenging and intellectually stimulating and that you learn valuable life skills. However, it is obvious that you could not be employed as an engineer or as a physicist.

I am sure that I would not have been able to do what I did in reverse – base my career on a degree in history of art and then study engineering in later life. So it is just a simple fact, if you don’t study maths, you limit your options in later life.

Professor Chris Guy

School of Systems Engineering,

University of Reading

 

 All hopes that greater sanity would prevail at the Department of Education were dashed when Nicky Morgan announced to the world that the only subjects worth studying were maths and science and that those who study the humanities and arts will be disadvantaged for life.

She has told the nation’s children that unless they are talented in these particular areas they are going to experience a lifetime of disadvantage. If this point of view gains ground, schools and universities will reduce funding and resources for subjects other than those she favours and within a short time generations of expertise will be dissipated.

When I recently visited China, I discovered the Chinese government has identified art and design as one of six new focuses in the economy and education. Chinese families are now encouraging their artistically gifted young to come to British schools to study art and design subjects. Many families are prepared to invest in an education that suits their children’s talents rather than being confined to the same narrow range of subjects which are now apparently preferred by our Education Secretary.

Lynne Taylor-Gooby

Principal, The Royal School

Haslemere, Surrey

 

What does electorate want from its leaders?

In your leader of 12 November you ask what the electorate expects of its politicians and then answer that “they like their leaders to work together in the public interest”, which, you say, is the reason why the Coalition has survived.

The opposite is the truth. The Liberal Democrats have remained part of the Coalition even though all opinion polls suggest that the electorate does not like the fact that the dire state of the public finances and the need to compromise with the Conservatives have meant they have had to take responsibility for unpopular measures.

As a result their poll rating has gone down to below what it was when they just criticised from the opposition benches. In fact, it is well below what it would be had they decided to not share responsibility and instead continued to criticise and pretend that there are easy answers, as does Ukip.

Charles Jenkins

London SW4

 

Shame on Sainsbury’s profiting from war

Commercialisation of the First World War has sunk to a new low with the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert. It cannot be right to allow a company such as Sainsbury’s to play upon an event such as the 1914 “Christmas truce” – a tiny event amidst the carnage and horrors of the war – for the purposes of advertising its shops and increasing its profits.

Martin Jeanneret

Newhaven, East Sussex

 

The world is a whole lot better now

John Dakin (letter, 14 November) writes: “The modern world is not perfect, but it is a whole lot better than before 1914” and he is correct, but what he omits is that, in seeking to diminish institutions like the EU and the NHS, the current UK government is actively helping to move Europe back towards those pre-1914 conditions.

Phillip Marston

St-Gingolph, Switzerland

 

Metric or imperial – it can’t be both

Please make up your mind whether you’re metric or imperial – a foot (or metre) in each camp makes for muddled journalism. The caption for the photo of Bob Diamond’s daughter (14 November) states her dress was ‘‘made from 35 metres of silk and comprising a 15ft-long train’’. If this was part of a ‘spot the deliberate confusion’ competition, I claim my prize.

Shane Malhotra 

Maidstone, Kent 

 

I agree with Farage – what a dilemma! 

I have just read Nigel Farage’s column (14 November) and have to say I agree with every word. He is so right to condemn private finance initiatives as this policy is making billions of pounds for private companies over and above what would have been reasonable amounts. As Farage says, it will be future generations who have to pick up the tab. The only problem I have with Ukip is that leaving the EU would be an economic disaster. What a dilemma!

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

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