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The Garrulous Insolence of Simon Thompson and Anthony Browne

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dumb insolence (dʌm ˈɪnsələns)

noun

  1. a silent act designed to frustrate a complainer, criticizer, superior etc perhaps involving a refusal to answer them, looking sideways or at other people as they chastise you or ignoring them by continuing what you are doing.
  2. (military, British) the offence of refusing to answer questions by a superior officer about a breach of discipline

Collins dictionary

So what’s garrulous insolence, then? It’s a coinage of my own; in fact, it is almost the same thing as dumb insolence, except noisier, and easier to confuse with sheer cluelessness. Its objective is not so much to infuriate, though it certainly does that, as to exhaust, and thus, defy, a questioner, by sheer wind power. Its insolence inheres in its deceptiveness, and in its barely-implicit assumption that the best use of the questioner’s time is to waste it.

I suppose Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch is the locus classicus, but the UK’s Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards seems to be a good source of examples too. Here, for instance, are extracts from the uncorrected transcripts of the testimony of Simon Thompson and Anthony Browne, who recently appeared before the Commission.

Simon Thompson’s testimony  first: he is Chief Executive of the Chartered Banker Institute, who “develop and promote professional standards for bankers and provide world class professional qualifications for the financial services industry in the UK and overseas” and “are unique in being entitled to award the “Chartered Banker” designation to our qualified members”.

Fred Goodwin, whose name features repeatedly in the testimony,  is of course the great bogeyman of the British leg of the Great Financial Crisis: the wrecker of Royal Bank of Scotland, briefly (ahem) the largest bank in the world, by assets.  We British are right to take pride in Goodwin, our homegrown benchmark of megalomaniac bungling. Our bankers can still surpass Dick Fuld or Jimmy Cayne for recklessness, and match Chuck Prince or Stan O’Neal. Oh dear me, yes.

From the transcripts:

Q2381 Chair: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming to give evidence this afternoon. May I begin with a question to you, Mr Thompson? Fred Goodwin, I gather, is a member of the chartered institute. Should he be?

Simon Thompson: He is a member of the chartered institute. He was made a fellow in the mid-1990s. One of the great issues for professional bodies in banking is that we have no statutory or regulatory powers, and we find it very hard to investigate conduct issues. We can investigate issues of student misconduct, and members phone in to talk about CPD.

Q2382 Chair: What do you not know in this case that you might need to know in order to say, “Would you mind moving on?”

Simon Thompson: It is a very simple thing. We need to know that a regulator has imposed sanctions on him. As far as I am aware, he is regulated by at least two bodies, neither of which has imposed sanctions.

Q2383 Chair: So as far as you are concerned, unless a regulator has been given a red card, anyone can be a member of your institute?

Simon Thompson: Not any longer. The criteria for joining have been tightened up very considerably since I joined the institute five years ago.

Q2384 Chair: Have you met and discussed whether you can remove those whom most people would consider unsuitable? Have you discussed the Goodwin case?

Simon Thompson: We have discussed the case at council and we have agreed that all members, however unpopular, should be subject to the same criteria for membership. We are not a statutory regulator; we have no investigatory powers of our own.

Q2385 Chair: But you have your own constitution. You can vary the constitution and make rules that would enable you to remove Fred Goodwin.

Simon Thompson: Our rules say that when a regulator imposes censure or sanctions on an individual, we will remove them. I would stress that he has been investigated by the FSA. He is on the FSA register and he is on the register of an accounting body, and neither body has seen fit to sanction him.

Q2386 Chair: You could give yourself a general power to act on unsuitability. You could do it next week.

Simon Thompson: I am not sure. Without being a statutory regulator with the quasi-judicial processes that the FSA, the accounting bodies or the General Medical Council have, we do not have those powers; it is within the power of Parliament or regulators to give those powers to professional bodies.

Q2387 Chair: I am not asking you to strike him off. It is the job of others to decide whether he is on the approved persons regime for the purposes of doing a job in banking. I am asking you, given that you are a banking institute, whether you think that you should have taken action to deal with Fred Goodwin and similar cases.

Simon Thompson: I wish we had the powers to be able to investigate the matter properly.

Q2388 Chair: You run your own constitution.

Simon Thompson: But we do not have any powers to investigate and compel evidence. That requires some sort of statutory underpinning.

Q2389 Chair: But you run your own rules. In a sense, it is like a club. Why have you not exercised those rules?

Simon Thompson: I think professional bodies in banking need to be much more than a club, and we need either to be able to rely on the work of independent regulators to look at this or to have some form of independent powers to compel evidence. Any individual, however unpopular, surely has the right to a fair hearing, conducted in accordance with general quasi-judicial principles, and we are not in a position to do that at the moment.

Q2390 Chair: You are a private body-correct?

Simon Thompson: We are a private body-an educational charity, in fact.

Q2391 Chair: A private body can make its own rules, so you can meet tomorrow to make a rule to give the board or a group the right to say, “We’d really rather not have you as a member.” The MCC can manage that; why can’t the banking institute?

Simon Thompson: We have rules which say that when an individual is found by a regulator-

Q2392 Chair: You’ve told us what the rules are. I’m asking you why you haven’t changed them already to enable you to take action.

Simon Thompson: Because we feel that the rules we have at the moment, which state that-well, I won’t repeat them, because you are aware of them. We feel that those rules are appropriate for a professional body that does not have investigatory and disciplinary powers of its own. We-

Q2393 Chair: Okay, so you think that the current rules you’ve got, which enable Fred Goodwin to remain a member, are satisfactory.

Simon Thompson: I think the current rules that we have need to be enhanced by a much greater independent regulator that looks at these cases, can take action against individuals and strike people off-

Q2394 Chair: But they are satisfactory, aren’t they? In your view, they are satisfactory.

Simon Thompson: I think our rules have put us in an uncomfortable situation.

Q2395 Chair: So they are not satisfactory.

Simon Thompson: I think without some form of statutory underpinning or much greater co-operation with a regulator, we are not able to take the action against individuals that we might wish to.

Q2396 Chair: It’s extraordinary. Every other private institution out there doesn’t sit around waiting to find out whether Parliament is going to legislate to help it to decide who is suitable to be a member.

Simon Thompson: I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, if I may-

Chair: It’s what you are suggesting.

Simon Thompson: After all, he is a qualified chartered accountant and a member of an accounting body with much greater investigatory and disciplinary powers than our own and he remains on the register.

Q2397 Chair: So he is a suitable person to be a member of the chartered institute, in your view. Is that what you’re saying? Is he suitable to be a member of the chartered institute?

Simon Thompson: My view is that-

Q2398 Chair: Try to answer the question, because the question is fairly straightforward. It is either a yes or a no, really, that one.

Simon Thompson: It is straightforward. I would like us to have the powers to take action against any individual, including Mr Goodwin, who would have breached our code of conduct.

Q2399 Chair: Given what we have just heard for the last five or six minutes, why do you think that the chartered institute can make much of a contribution in the field of improving banking standards?

OK so that attempt at a spot of positioning looks pretty forlorn. The committee continues to pick away at the Fred Goodwin thing…

Q2428 Chair: Mr Thompson, I have an extract from your code of conduct in front of me, and it says that members have a duty to “Uphold the name…of…the banking profession”. That is what it actually says. Do you think Fred Goodwin has upheld the name of the banking profession?

Simon Thompson: I don’t know is the answer. That is why I would like to have the powers to investigate him and find out.

Q2429 Chair: Don’t you think you are just about the only man left in the country who does not know?

Simon Thompson: I think there are many men and women in the country-

Q2430 Chair: He might have been maligned?

Simon Thompson: Who have been horrified by what has happened in banking more broadly over the past few years. If we are to take action against an individual, it has to be done, surely, on the basis that that individual has a fair hearing, however unpopular they may be.

Q2431 Chair: You can set up your own hearing on the basis of your own code of conduct, just like any private body. That is going on as we speak-all the time, all over the country-in private institutions.

Simon Thompson: The issue here is one of evidence.

Q2432 Chair: You can ask for the evidence. What power do you not have to run yourselves that you feel you need?

Simon Thompson: We do not have the power to compel an individual, an organisation or another body to provide evidence that an individual has acted badly.

Q2433 Chair: Have you asked Fred Goodwin? You are saying, “We haven’t got any powers to compel,” but have you tried a letter, for example, or even a phone call?

Simon Thompson: We have not asked him to supply evidence, because a disciplinary committee has not been established to look into that. We are waiting for regulators, who have the power to do these things, to take action. That is not a satisfactory situation, and it illustrates why current professional bodies in banking cannot take action against these individuals, although we have regulators who could and should.

Q2434 Chair: Do you appreciate that what we are watching this afternoon gives us powerful evidence to suggest that your body is not the one best suited to play a role in restoring standards?

Simon Thompson: Not surprisingly, I take a different view. We have a high-profile individual who is extraordinarily unpopular, and we are being pressured into taking action against them.

Q2435 Chair: I am using him only as an example. As several colleagues have pointed out, there are many others around.

Simon Thompson: In one or two cases where high-profile individuals have been members of the institute, disciplinary action has been instituted, and those individuals are no longer members of the professional body-where a regulator has taken action. [Interruption.] If I may finish the point, Mr Chairman, we are in an uncomfortable situation, but there are bodies with more powers than ours, who have regulatory powers, who have investigated and who have not taken action. We are in an impossible position, where, without having the powers, we are being asked to take action against an individual, when others have not acted. You might wish to ask them why other censures and sanctions have not been forthcoming.

Q2436 Chair: Just at the moment, we are asking you. I am sure you understand.

Simon Thompson: I know. I am well aware of that.

Q2437 Mark Garnier: Sorry to bleat on about this, Mr Thompson, but would you not agree that the tone from the top is vital if we are to improve standards?

Simon Thompson: The role of senior management and the tone from the top in creating the right culture are absolutely key. There is also a wider point: the tone at the top is the key driver in making sure that organisations take professional standards seriously and that there are not policies and procedures that prevent individuals from doing that. There is also something about the tone at the middle and the tone at the bottom. You need to have individuals surrounded by a culture of professionalism.

Q2438 Mark Garnier: Given the last half an hour’s conversation, in which we have talked about the tone the Chartered Banker Institute is setting regarding Fred Goodwin, do you think you are setting the right tone from the top, or are you merely saying that you want to wriggle like [an] eel to avoid any responsibility in terms of people who have brought banking into disrepute?

Simon Thompson: I think we are setting the appropriate tone from the top by-

Q2439 Mark Garnier: By not throwing Fred Goodwin out of the organisation.

Simon Thompson: I think we are succeeding in setting the right tone from the top by getting nine banks to agree to a common code of professional conduct for the first time, so that professional standards-

Q2440 Mark Garnier: But it does not matter, because they will not be thrown out if they get it wrong, will they?

Simon Thompson: Well, I come back to the point-my colleagues made this point-that we are not regulators.

Q2441 Mark Garnier: You do not have to be regulators. I am sorry, but you have gone on about this a great deal, and this is where we are getting frustrated. If you are a member of a golf club, any other sort of club, a political party or anything else, there is always something in the rules that says that a member must uphold the good name of whatever organisation they are a member of-this is merely an internal thing. If you genuinely think that Fred Goodwin has upheld the good name of the Chartered Banker Institute in the actions that he has taken, that sends an extraordinary message. Surely, your organisation could just hoof him out because he has brought the banking industry-and your organisation as a result, I might add-into disrepute.

Simon Thompson: There are many organisations of which he has fellowships, memberships and so on, and is a qualified member of, and I think we are all in the same position. We believe-I cannot speak for anyone else, but I suspect most organisations would say-that any individual, however unpopular, deserves a fair hearing. Unfortunately in banking, as non-regulatory and non-statutory bodies we do not have the quasi-judicial mechanisms we need in this day and age to conduct a fair hearing.

Q2442 Mark Garnier: You have a constitution, like any other organisation. If somebody breaches your constitution, surely you can just turn round and at least telephone to say, “Given the acres and acres of bad press about you for the last seven years, would you mind coming in and having a conversation about the fact that you’ve blown up the entire banking system of this country?” Surely that is not a bad conversation to have, is it?

Simon Thompson: I’m not sure that is the way we want professional regulators to work in this country, that they just look at the newspapers, see someone is unpopular and then decide to do something.

Q2443 Chair: We are not asking you to act like a professional regulator; we are asking you to act like a private club. His golf club has got rid of him. His golf club has managed it and you have not.

On to Anthony Browne, the new CEO of the British Banking Association, which, until September 2012, oversaw the calculation of LIBOR, and collected fees for it. Readers will be aware that the BBA’s LIBOR oversight didn’t amount to very much.

Q2520 Chair: Before bringing in Andy Love, I want to be clear what you mean by a bad banker. You said earlier that a bad banker was somebody who had broken the law, but it is much more than that.

Anthony Browne: That is one example. It is a clear example that we can all agree on.

Q2521 Chair: Yes, but you would agree that someone who mis-sold products on a vast scale was a bad banker.

Anthony Browne: The broader point that I was trying to make is that I think that the industry should take the moral high ground on the behaviour of bankers, and should not defend behaviour that is unacceptable and is seen to be unacceptable. As I said, we are not a regulator and we do not regulate individuals, but people who break the approved persons regime and get prohibited and so on should be chucked out.

Q2522Chair: So we are clear that people are bad bankers if they are no longer considered fit and proper to be an approved person? We are agreed about that?

Anthony Browne: Yes, I think I agree on that as well.

Q2523Chair: And we are agreed, aren’t we, about people who mis-sold products on a vast scale?

Anthony Browne: Yes, if they have broken the regulatory regime.

Q2524Chair: Well, what does that mean? When you say you want higher standards, this is exactly the point that I am on. Are you relying on the approved persons regime to tell you that, or are you saying that there is a standard beyond that?

Anthony Browne: We want to raise standards across the industry for everybody.

Q2525 Chair: I am asking you if someone has mis-sold products on a vast scale-

Anthony Browne: You are talking about-

Chair: Someone who has been out there selling PPI to hundreds of people knowing that they do not need it.

Anthony Browne: One of the things we have suggested in the options that we sent you about standards is an industry-wide code of conduct that the banks-you could have a banking standards board or a banking standards review council-would oversee and ensure that the code of conduct was properly implemented. One of the options is that if bank employees are deemed to have broken the code of conduct, they should, as part of their employment contract, lose their job. Another example-

Q2526 Chair: That will be enough as an example. As long as we are in the same place, we can move on. I want to make sure that we are clearly in the same place. Somebody who has mis-sold products on a vast scale will have done that.

Anthony Browne: They should have done, yes. We do not have a code of conduct. We have not precisely defined it. Clearly part of it should be looking after the interests of customers.

Q2527 Chair: It would do in future, given where you want to take your code.

Anthony Browne: Yes, absolutely. Mis-selling is completely unacceptable and there is no defence for mis-selling. You should not encourage practices that encourage mis-selling.

Q2528 Chair: I just want to be clear what is meant by the phrase “bad banker” when you use it. I just want to give one more example, then by all means add a lot more. Take someone who has, for example, made colossal misjudgments that cost the taxpayer billions of pounds. Would you think that that is an example of a bad banker?

Anthony Browne: There is a very interesting question here-the Government have obviously got a consultation on the duties of possible criminal sanctions against directors of banks-about what constitutes recklessness and negligence. You have to think very carefully before you criminalise making a bad business decision, if that is the route that you are going down.

Q2529 Chair: Again, you have gone all the way back to where we started this conversation about three minutes ago. We began three minutes ago by saying how a bad banker is not just somebody who has become a criminal and broken the law. It means more than that, doesn’t it, and you gave what felt to me like a helpful answer, which was, “Yes, and it means a lot more.” So then I tried to explore what “a lot more” might entail and we arrived at somebody who has made a colossal misjudgment and thrown away billions of taxpayers’ money, and you seem unsure whether that person is a bad banker. He is clearly not a good banker, so he is likely to be a bad banker.

Anthony Browne: No; the point I was trying to make is that running businesses, small and large-particularly small ones-is very difficult. It is difficult to predict the future and to know what circumstances you are going to find yourself in. Good people make bad business decisions. That is the point I want to make. You can make the worst possible business decision. To talk about a completely different industry-

Chair: I agree. It is a fair point.

Anthony Browne: Bill Gates missed the internet and Nokia missed smartphones. Nokia’s share price collapsed.

Chair: We all agree.

Anthony Browne: Does that make the head of Nokia a bad person?

Q2530 Chair: We all agree and you are making a fair point, but a particular duty of care is required where a firm benefits from an implicit guarantee.

Anthony Browne: Well, that is the point that I was trying to make.

Q2531 Chair: On the Nokia example you gave, or the Vodafone example, they do not have a state guarantee standing behind them, do they?

Anthony Browne: No.

Q2532 Chair: So it is different. Therefore a bad banker is likely to be somebody who triggers on a vast scale a state guarantee, unless there is a incredibly good reason why it happened.

Anthony Browne: If they are acting recklessly, yes, I would agree with you, but just making a bad business judgment-

Q2533 Chair: Do you think Fred Goodwin was a bad banker?

Anthony Browne: It’s difficult to say-

Q2534 Chair: Do you think he was a good banker?

Anthony Browne: With the benefit of hindsight, he clearly took-

Q2535 Chair: If I may say so, your hesitancy over questions like that is not the best place to be.

I should point out that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings. I fear, however, that any corrections will make little difference to the woeful impression made by this pair of slippery nonentities, blinking in the bright lights. But at least, after that brisk slap, Mr Browne snaps out of it, and starts being “helpful”, the highest praise this committee ever offers. For Mr Thompson, there appears to be no redemption.

When I get around to it, I’ll provide more sightings of “garrulous insolence” at the TSC, from grander members, and ex-members, of the British banking firmament,: there is quite a back catalogue to work through, and it’s still growing.

One hopes that this magnificent Punch and Judy show eventually leads somewhere, for banking in the UK. One is glumly aware that it may not.

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25 comments

  1. Glasshammer

    “I think without some form of statutory underpinning or much greater co-operation with a regulator, we are not able to take the action against individuals that we might wish to.”
    -Simon Thompson

    “As I said, we are not a regulator and we do not regulate individuals, but people who break the approved persons regime and get prohibited and so on should be chucked out.”
    -Anthony Browne

    ^All it takes to keep your members out of jail is the constant weakening of external regulations and the complete removal of internal ones. If this isn’t the perfect example of why self-regulation doesn’t, work I don’t know what is.

  2. Titus Pullo

    What a hoot! And, so, so Pythonesque…. I’m still smiling ……
    Having spent a number of years, previously, in the UK, observing the to-and-fro of the parliamentary process and the various parliamentary select committees, I stand in awe at the polite, wit, wisdom and japery of its members. The, general, absence of partisan deference to witnesses giving evidence is both amusing and insightful; often driving home the plain absurdity, pomposity, arrogance and villainy of villains and their acolytes. Here in the USA we can only hope for such a public display of rotten tomatoes being thrown at the likes of the leathery Mozilo, amnesic Moynihan and the God fearing Blankfeild, sitting in the Banking Committee’s stocks (Though I did like Levine’s “shitty deal..” harangue).

    Isn’t it time one of our select committees’ invited George Galloway back for a visit?

  3. ambrit

    It sounds like “Yes Minister Visits The City.” The roles are reversed though here.
    The politicians come off better over there more than here, alas. Given the essential difference between the US and UK political systems; the timing of elections, what could substitute for the Parliamentary “immediacy” here in America? Recall petitions for Members of Congress anyone? Something to keep their noses to the grindstone, mayhaps.

  4. Stephen Nightingale

    “Garrulous Insolence”: sadly, what we see above is the usual persiflage from quasi-political bloviators.

  5. steelhead23

    The Chair fairly beat that dead parrot to death and still, from the blind perspective of Mr. Simon Thompson, short of a notarized death certificate, that parrot is still a member in good standing. These guys almost make Lanny Breuer seem competent.

    Thanks for posting, Richard, but isn’t it possible that if the Chartered Banker Institute were to de-enroll members who had defrauded their customers, it would cease to exist? That’s we see when we read this – the CBS is a den of thieves.

  6. Nathanael

    I think something is gonna happen in Britain; it’s easier to replace governments there, *and the politicians are better than ours already*.

  7. Kukulkan

    This is pathetic.

    Rather than following the rule of law and holding a proper inquiry following established judicial procedure in which an accused is entitled to hear the charges against them, has the right to present their side of the story and which is decided by evidence and law according to accepted precedent, the members of this Parliamentary Commission figure they’ll just do an end-run around that and punish the guy by badgering people into ostracising the guy.

    What next? Are they going to bring the local school children in and demand to know why they aren’t throwing rocks at his house and keying his car? Bring the members of the local Rotary Club and ask why they aren’t dressing up in white hoods and burning crosses on his lawn?

    Thompson and Browne are right here: they don’t need to change the constitution of their organisation just to accommodate the whims and prejudices of these MPs. If these MPs think that Fred Goodwin hasn’t been properly punished, then let them do their own dirty work and push for a proper inquiry. As members of Parliament, they are in the position to do that. If he’s found guilty, then according to the testimony of Thompson and Browne, his membership in the Chartered Banker Institute will be automatically terminated.

    The financial crisis was brought on in part by a weakening of the rule of law. A big part of the solution, I would suggest, is to re-establish and strengthen the rule of law, not to weaken it further with this kind of attempted abuse of power.

    Of course, the problem with that is that if the rule of law were re-established, other bankers who have managed to stay out of the limelight and haven’t become massively unpopular would also have to answer for their actions. So I can see why some banker-friendly MPs would want to avoid that.

    What I find amazing is that so many others who also apparently think that’s a desirable outcome.

    1. steelhead23

      Your comment is simply ridiculous. The Parliament is merely asking Mr. Simon Thompson why the CBI is willing to allow a banker who engaged in wildly risky behavior, injuring his customers and the prestige of Fleet Street, not to mention the stability of Britain, to continue as a certified member of CBI. Mr. Thompson is not an innocent child and his evasions are ludicrous. He would not even answer a simple, direct question. Is Mr. Goodwin “suitable to be a member of the chartered institute?”

      I sometimes rail against the complexities of modern life that obligate us to depend on experts. Experts in medicine, law, accounting, and yes, banking are trusted because they have “skins on the wall”, diplomas and certifications that we rubes rely on to demonstrate competence. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is. Are you now suggesting that those skins on the wall are meaningless?

      1. Kukulkan

        steelhead23 wrote:
        The Parliament is merely asking Mr. Simon Thompson why the CBI is willing to allow a banker who engaged in wildly risky behavior, injuring his customers and the prestige of Fleet Street, not to mention the stability of Britain, to continue as a certified member of CBI.

        And when the MP got an answer he didn’t like – that the rules of the organisation provide no basis on which to expel Goodwin – the MP proceeded to ask well, ‘then why don’t you change the rules?’ And that’s where it crosses the line and shows that he wasn’t ”merely asking”, he was presenting a demand-phrased-as-a-question and wasn’t willing to accept any response other than forelock-tugging compliance.

        If you think this sort of arbitrary persecution is a good idea, why not just abolish the rules all together and make these MPs dictators ruling through proclamations. That way they could target whoever they wanted without having to bother to demand the rules be changed to accommodate their desires and investigations would just be showpieces designed to support their actions and so could be justifiably be ignored.

        He would not even answer a simple, direct question. Is Mr. Goodwin “suitable to be a member of the chartered institute?”

        He did answer it: since Goodwin has not been sanctioned by any regulatory body with the appropriate investigatory power to do so, he’s suitable; if he had been sanctioned by such a body, he wouldn’t be. It’s just that since that’s not an answer the MPs wanted to hear, we get the rest of this farcical exchange in which the MPs try to impose their will and get the answer they want by badgering the witnesses.

        Are you now suggesting that those skins on the wall are meaningless?

        I’m suggesting that a lynch mob is not a valid replacement for due process.

    2. Titus Pullo

      @Kukulkan

      What are you blithering on about? These people are of course publicly accountable, and certainly accountable to the select committees’ questioning.

      Anthony Browne is the CEO of the British Banker association – the leading trade association for the UK banking and financial services sector. The organisation that promotes a legislative and regulatory system for banking and financial services in the UK, Europe and internationally – and ‘promotes and defends the industry by engaging with government, devolved administrations’. Its board comprises of:

      Barclays Bank plc ,BNP Paribas,Citibank NA, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank AG, Hampshire Trust plc HSBC Bank plc, J.P. Morgan Europe Limited, Lloyds Banking Group, Santander UK plc, Standard, Chartered Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland plc.

      These idiots (BBA members)facilitated the corruption of the objectivity and accuracy of the BBA-LIBOR rates – that allows derivatives to be created based on the data as a reference – used widely used in the City of London and worldwide. The BAA took hundreds of millions in fees for the privilege of doing so, easing the process by which its member banks were able to take billions in your tainted credit card, mortgage and municipality interest rates.

      But lets the BBA speak for themselves, perhaps? As Anthony Browne blogged to his members only last week (1/18/2013):

      ‘Britain’s banks should hit the gold standard for professionalism…. London needs to reclaim the moral high ground. We need to raise – and be seen to raise – our professional and ethical standards in banking so they are world class’

      So I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask Anthony Browne how his trade association’s sanctuary to maleficent bankers and corrupt practices lends itself to ‘promote a legislative and regulatory system for banking and financial services – in the UK, Europe and internationally as well as set the ‘gold standard for professionalism’.

      As for Simon Thompson’s Chartered Banker Institute – it proffers the halcyon notion of:

      ‘All members are expected to display the highest standards of professionalism and a commitment to ethical conduct, giving due care and consideration to others and putting the public interest first.’ And,
      ‘Failure to meet the high standards expected can result in suspension or expulsion.’

      Then doesn’t do exactly that when many of its members (let alone one very high profile CEO) is, by any of the measure outlined in the CBI’s charter, such a colossal failure. As such it’s important to ask why should anyone, let alone the public, take the CBI’s standards of professionalism seriously; are we not better looking to other charted associations for the imprimatur of probity when other businesses, banks and organisations consider employing and doing financial business its charter members?

      1. Kukulkan

        Titus Pullo wrote:
        What are you blithering on about?

        Due process and the rule of law. Concepts that are obviously alien to you (and various others).

        Changing the rules to target a single individual is arbitrary. Targeting an individual without a proper investigation and giving the targeted individual a chance to respond to the charges against them is unfair. Taken together, the two demands are the kind of thing one would expect to find in a despotic cult or dictatorship, not coming from members of the mother of parliaments.

        The fact that these MPs demand both shows them to be completely unfit to hold the office to which they have been elected, let alone a position of responsibility on parliamentary committee.

        Then doesn’t do exactly that when many of its members (let alone one very high profile CEO) is, by any of the measure outlined in the CBI’s charter, such a colossal failure.

        According to the answers given, the CBI charter defines someone as unsuitable for membership if they have been sanctioned by the appropriate regulatory authorities. Apparently neither you, nor the members of the Committee think it’s a problem that the appropriate regulatory authorities haven’t sanctioned Goodwin.

        Why not?

        Here’s a suggestion: have the appropriate regulatory authorities investigate Goodwin’s actions based on actual laws and judicial processes rather than vague bullshit notions like “suitability” and, if they find him guilty of violations then bodies such as the CBI will expel him automatically based on their current charter.

        Why is that unacceptable?

        Why is it so much preferable for Goodwin’s golf club and the CBI to change their charters so as to arbitrarily expel Goodwin, ignoring all notions of natural justice, the rule of law and due process?

        1. Titus Pullo

          I understand that you omit BBA from your diatribe – because if the BBA wants to act like a quasi-regulatory body it should answer to a quasi-judicial body. Accepted.

          As for the CBI it’s Charter makes no reference to ‘Due process and the rule of law’. It makes no reference to being ‘unsuitable for membership ONLY if members have been sanctioned by the appropriate regulatory authorities’, as you state. It simply states(quote):

          “All members are expected to display the highest standards of professionalism and a commitment to ethical conduct, giving due care and consideration to others and putting the public interest first.”

          And,

          “Failure to meet the high standards expected can result in suspension or expulsion.”

          Indenturing the British tax payer to the tune of several billion dollars does not constitute “giving due care and consideration to others and putting the public interest first”. And, it wasn’t simply “bad judgement” that put the tax payer in this invidious position, it was mendacity at best and lies at worse…

          That alone is sufficient for the CBI to expel anyone – and this demonstrate that (as previously said)the CBI does indeed have imprimatur of probity when other businesses, banks and organisations consider employing and doing financial business its chartered members.

          And if the tax payer is footing the bill for any of these maleficent actions, then the tax payers representative are, of course, permitted to ask the banker’s trade representatives what they think about it and why.

          1. Kukulkan

            Either the rule of law applies to everyone, or it isn’t the rule of law.

            Either due process applies to everyone, or what you have isn’t due process.
            Either everyone’s basic rights are respected, or what you have aren’t rights, they’re privileges granted by those in power only to the individuals they feel like so honouring, and then only so long as they feel like it.

            These are the foundations of modern society. They don’t need to be incorporated into specific charters, they are simply givens of a liberal democracy. Or, at least, they should be. If they’re not, then what we have isn’t a liberal democracy.

            Indenturing the British tax payer to the tune of several billion dollars does not constitute “giving due care and consideration to others and putting the public interest first”. And, it wasn’t simply “bad judgement” that put the tax payer in this invidious position, it was mendacity at best and lies at worse…

            Then why haven’t the properly constituted authorities investigated and sanctioned him?

            This is one of the thing I find utterly amazing about this discussion: the fact that no regulator has imposed sanctions and everyone — the MPs, Richard Smith and all the other commentators — think this is reasonable and valid. Instead what they’re all getting upset about is the fact that what amounts to a private club won’t change their rules to expel Goodwin.

            Seriously, you think the only thing wrong with the exchange quote above is that Thompson and Browne aren’t going along with this bit of would-be despotism?

  8. run75441

    Before the UCMJ, this was called silent contempt and many young men went to the Brig for this charge. Thompson is openly contemptuous of the chair.

    Why not a week in jail to lossen him up? Afterall this is not costa nostra or the mafia. These are office boys who get manicures and live off of others.

  9. ChrisPacific

    Q2381 Chair: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming to give evidence this afternoon. May I begin with a question to you, Mr Thompson? Fred Goodwin, I gather, is a parrot for sale in your store. Should he be?

    Simon Thompson: He is for sale in our store. He was put up for sale early last week. One of the great issues for professional bodies in pet retailing is that we have no veterinary powers, and we find it very hard to investigate questions of life or death.

    Q2382 Chair: What do you not know in this case that you might need to know in order to say, “This parrot is dead?”

    Simon Thompson: It is a very simple thing. We need to see a death certificate from a qualified veterinary authority. As far as I am aware, he is seen by at least two vets, neither of which has pronounced a death certificate.

    Q2383 Chair: So as far as you are concerned, unless a vet has pronounced it dead, any parrot can be for sale in your store?

    Simon Thompson: Not any longer. The criteria for sale have been tightened up very considerably since I joined the store five years ago.

    Q2384 Chair: Have you met and discussed whether you can remove parrots whom most people would consider to be dead? Have you discussed the Goodwin case?

    Simon Thompson: We have discussed the case at council and we have agreed that all parrots, however putrescent, should be subject to the same criteria for sale. We are not a veterinary practice; we have no diagnostic powers of our own.

    Q2385 Chair: But you have your own constitution. You can vary the constitution and make rules that would enable you to remove dead parrots from sale.

    Simon Thompson: Our rules say that when a vet issues a death certificate for a parrot, we will remove them from sale. I would stress that he has been investigated by the local vet. He is on the local veterinary register and he is on the register of a regional vet, and neither one has seen fit to issue a death certificate.

    Q2386 Chair: You could give yourself a general power to remove dead parrots from sale. You could do it next week.

    Simon Thompson: I am not sure. Without being a qualified veterinary practice with the quasi-diagnostic processes that the VSA, the veterinary bodies or the General Medical Council have, we do not have those powers; it is within the power of Parliament or regulators to give those powers to pet stores.

    Q2387 Chair: I am not asking you to issue a death certificate. It is the job of others to decide whether the parrot is legally dead. I am asking you, given that you are a pet store, whether you think that you should have taken action to deal with this dead parrot and similar cases.

    Simon Thompson: I wish we had the powers to be able to investigate the matter properly.

    Q2388 Chair: You run your own constitution.

    Simon Thompson: But we do not have any powers to perform a diagnosis and provide a formal medical determination. That requires some sort of statutory underpinning.

    Q2389 Chair: But you run your own rules. In a sense, it is like a club. Why have you not exercised those rules?

    Simon Thompson: I think professional bodies in pet retailing need to be much more than a club, and we need either to be able to rely on the work of independent vets to look at this or to have some form of independent powers to compel a medical determination. Any parrot, however putrescent, surely has the right to a medical examination, conducted in accordance with general quasi-diagnostic principles, and we are not in a position to do that at the moment.

    Q2390 Chair: You are a private body-correct?

    Simon Thompson: We are a private body-a pet store, in fact.

    Q2391 Chair: A private body can make its own rules, so you can meet tomorrow to make a rule to give the board or a group the right to say, “We’d really rather not have this parrot up for sale as it seems to be dead.” The MCC can manage that; why can’t the pet store?

    Simon Thompson: We have rules which say that when a parrot is found by a vet-

    Q2392 Chair: You’ve told us what the rules are. I’m asking you why you haven’t changed them already to enable you to take action.

    Simon Thompson: Because we feel that the rules we have at the moment, which state that-well, I won’t repeat them, because you are aware of them. We feel that those rules are appropriate for a pet store that does not have veterinary powers of its own. We-

    Q2393 Chair: Okay, so you think that the current rules you’ve got, which enable this dead parrot to remain up for sale, are satisfactory.

    Simon Thompson: I think the current rules that we have need to be enhanced by a much greater veterinary authority that looks at these cases, can take action against individual parrots and remove them from-

    Q2394 Chair: But they are satisfactory, aren’t they? In your view, they are satisfactory.

    Simon Thompson: I think our rules have put us in an uncomfortable situation.

    Q2395 Chair: So they are not satisfactory.

    Simon Thompson: I think without some form of statutory underpinning or much greater co-operation with a vet, we are not able to take the actions regarding individual parrots that we might wish to.

    Q2396 Chair: It’s extraordinary. Every other pet store out there doesn’t sit around waiting to find out whether Parliament is going to legislate to help it to decide whether a parrot is dead.

    Simon Thompson: I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, if I may-

    Chair: It’s what you are suggesting.

    Simon Thompson: After all, he is a genuine scarlet macaw and is seen by a veterinary practice with much greater investigatory and diagnostic powers than our own and he remains on their list.

    Q2397 Chair: So he is a suitable parrot to be for sale in your pet store, in your view. Is that what you’re saying? Is he suitable to be for sale in your store?

    Simon Thompson: My view is that-

    Q2398 Chair: Try to answer the question, because the question is fairly straightforward. It is either a yes or a no, really, that one.

    Simon Thompson: It is straightforward. I would like us to have the powers to take action against any parrot, including Mr Goodwin, who might be considered to be dead.

    Q2399 Chair: Given what we have just heard for the last five or six minutes, why do you think that your store can make much of a contribution in the field of improving pet quality standards?

    1. Gollum

      What? This is like retelling an anecdote that some one in the same room has just related to all assembled, but without the addition of wit, wisdom, commentary, insight or a twist. …..”cricket!” ……

      Perhaps, you are you illustrating your cut and paste prowess?

    2. Gollum

      Oh! I see…. It’s a pet shop, parrot joke….. Based on the very much clever Monty Python ‘I’d like to buy a parrot’ sketch. But, without the addition of wit, wisdom, commentary or a twist. “cricket!”…

      1. ChrisPacific

        Yeah, I went through it as a fun exercise to see how it would turn out (in the hope that it would highlight how ludicrous the responses were) but then was in two minds about posting it. I think it was probably more fun to write than to read as it essentially lays out something that the reader was probably doing mentally anyway (c.f. steelhead23 comment).

        File it under jokes that didn’t quite work and move on I guess.

  10. ebear

    Mendacious obfuscating pedants, I tells ya!

    But how does we go about ameliorating said egregious state of affairs?

    Alas, methinks they be too well ensconsed!

  11. OMF

    dictionarySo what’s garrulous insolence, then?

    If you’re looking for examples, Google some Little Britian Vicky Pollard sketches.

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