Blog Archives

COVID-19 bulletin 2: support from some bankers, corporations & football clubs

As George Monbiot writes, all over the world, mutual aid groups have blossomed as people support each other through the pandemic. He describes such initiatives in seven countries in his recent article. 

Banks are being required to cancel dividends and serve the needs of businesses and households 

The FT reports that the Bank of England has been exerting pressure on banks to cancel their dividends and HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds and Standard Chartered were the first to agree to cancel dividends worth £7.5bn so they could “serve the needs of businesses and households” during the coronavirus shutdown.

The central bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) is pressing large banks to cut their top executives’ multi-million pound bonuses for the duration of the coronavirus epidemic, according to a Reuters report.

Public and political pressure has led many companies to scrap dividend payments

Governments are insisting that companies wanting to use economic rescue packages must stop pay-outs to shareholders. In another FT article, the FT’s Investment Correspondent reports that 307 European and North American businesses have slashed, postponed or cancelled their dividends. Some utilities and oil and gas companies are resisting this pressure and 40 dividend payments in those sectors are due this month.

Football players, executives and match-day staff are making a contribution

FC Business reports that Brighton and Hove Albion has made a commitment to pay match-day staff who are unable to work due to the coronavirus and Paul Barber, the chief executive (above), technical director Dan Ashworth and head coach Graham Potter have each taken a “significant” voluntary pay cut.

A BBC website adds that Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich have opted to use the government’s job retention scheme. Bournemouth’s manager became the first in the Premier League to take a voluntary pay cut. Players, coaches and executive staff at Norwich have donated a percentage of their salaries, £200,000 in all, to help local people affected by the pandemic. Players at Leeds United have volunteered to take a wage deferral and Birmingham City players, who earn more than £6,000 a week, have been asked to take a 50% cut for the next four months.

There is no guarantee that collective action will survive the end of the pandemic, but this experience might well increase support for current political moves in England and Wales to build a Future Generations Movement, leading government, public bodies, people and communities to work together to eradicate problems, including poverty, health inequalities and climate change.






Media 79: mainstream media are not reporting Barclay’s announcement on Third Energy fracking project

Fracking: Five pages were searched and all witnessed to publicity from campaigning groups – a snapshot of the first page may be seen below.

Not ‘commercially viable’? Fracking: environmentally, socially and financially a bad investment

Third Energy, a Barclays subsidiary, which had a licence to frack just south of the North York Moors national park has “not become a profitable investment”. This is due to local opposition, which delays companies’ progress, according to Barclay’s chairman John McFarlane, speaking at the bank’s annual general meeting.

Barclays’ has now announced that it will sell its stake in fracking company Third Energy “in due course”.

Steve Mason of local campaign group Frack Free Ryedale said in a press release: “Clearly fracking is a bad investment environmentally, socially and financially. Where is the long term future of this industry? Why would you put money into an industry that is increasingly rejected by communities and could get banned at anytime?”




Whistleblowers 11: the ones that got away?

In Britain whistleblowers are usually made to suffer, despite the nicknamed ‘Whistle-blowers Act’: There have been several general articles about whistleblowing on this site & others focussing on some brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths. Before this site was set up there were health sector whistleblowers; Marta Andreasen & Paul van Buitenen also revealed shocking cases of EU financial mismanagement and suffered for it.

 Just for the record – covered profusely in MSM:

Professor Prem Sikka tweeted about a case involving Barclays chief executive Jes Staley, who started to work for Barclays in December 2015 and later recruited at least four senior executives who had worked with him at JPMorgan Chase. In June, when Barclays received two anonymous letters making allegations of what the bank describes as “a personal nature” about one of the investment bankers, Mr Staley asked Barclays’ security team to track down the author, though the bank’s compliance department had logged the letters as potential whistleblowing.

Barclays’ board only learnt of Mr Staley’s efforts to identify the tipster in January when a second whistleblower, this time a Barclays’ employee, came forward and directly contacted its outside directors.  In a letter, the Barclays employee pointed to flaws in the bank’s whistle-blower procedures and cited Mr. Staley’s attempts to unveil the anonymous critic.

The bank said it had instructed law firm Simmons & Simmons to conduct an investigation which found that Mr Staley erred in trying to identify the authors of the letters, who in the end were not unmasked. Barclays’ board also informed the FCA and PRA.  Barclays said it has given Staley a formal written warning and will slash his salary. The bank has promised to review its whistleblowing programme.

The Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority are now looking into the matter in Britain, while New York’s Department of Financial Services and the US Department of Justice are conducting investigations in the United States.

Paul Moore, a former HBOS banker, was dismissed from HBOS in the run-up to the financial crisis in 2004 for whistleblowing – warning that the bank was running risks it did not understand. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Staley should be fired. Trying to find out the identity of an anonymous whistleblower where the motivation is obviously to try to crush them is gross misconduct.’

It requires real courage for whistleblowers to act on what they see, especially in the UK. One FT article notes that a recent survey by the Ethics Resource Centre of employees in 13 countries found that 63% of British employees who reported wrongdoing experienced retaliation, second only to India and far worse than the 36 per cent global averageMore detail here:





The Hector Sants affair fits into two PCU categories: reward for failure and the revolving door

Rewarded for failure

hector santsjpegHector Sants, the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, who failed to prevent or detect mis-selling of payment protection insurance, the Barclays Libor-fixing scandal and the bank failures which led to an ongoing economic crisis, has been rewarded by a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List.


He passes through the revolving door – twice

revolving_doorMr Sants showed the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee correspondence with Barclays, in which he had raised profound concerns about the culture and governance arrangements at Barclays, and yet a few months later he accepted a senior appointment as Barclays head of compliance.  Antony Jenkins, now Barclays chief executive, is said to have recruited Mr Sants to “bolster the status of Barclays’ compliance and regulatory oversight functions and make them integral to the way the bank operates”.

So Mr Sants moved from banking to regulating financial services, then back again to employment in this sector.

Professor Scott Cato blogs:

“Awarding a public honour to such a man is just to rub our noses in the culture of rewards for failure, while the price of the failure is borne by citizens who just work hard or the vulnerable who rely on public services”.

She points out the man’s blatant double standards:

“In his evidence to the Treasury Committee inquiry Sants commented that people who have shown ‘serial misjudgement’ should not be allowed to run financial organisations again.

“Although he also confessed to his own failure in this evidence he does not seem to think this undermines his right to a multi-million pound job as head of compliance at Barclays.

“In awarding him a knighthood the establishment clearly agree. His service to British banking has been rewarded; the devastation wreaked on the British people and our economy ignored.”

We hope that the cartoon forecast will not be accurate

hector sants cartoonCynically, Ripped off Britain looks ahead, commenting on both reward and the view of Sants’ intention to restore Barclays’ reputation:

A. He will certainly be using all his FSA  skills . . .

B. To expose dodgy dealing?

A. No. To conceal it even better so they never get caught.




Teaching the gentle arts of failed speculation and rate rigging in schools: completing the corporate takeover of Britain?

Rage distracted me from my gentle Sunday plans – mixed with surprise that our government could display even more corporate-friendly arrogance than I thought possible. Are there no lengths to which they will go? No depths to which they will sink?

Yesterday an article by Elaine Moore, deputy editor of FT Money, was widely retweeted.

captive state cover2It opens by reporting a plan by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People to invite high street banks – even those responsible for the consumer ‘mis-selling’ scandal of the past decade – into British schools to help to teach financial education.

Banks, including Lloyds, RBS and Barclays, would be considered for a list of financial service firms permitted to use branded material when making classroom presentations in English primary and secondary schools from September 2014.

And the Department for Education states that there are no rules to prohibit corporate involvement in teaching and the display of brand names in material used in lessons.

Financial education – and lessons in the art of form-filling until plain English triumphs – is undoubtedly needed in schools to equip pupils to cope with ‘the system’, but choose decent, honest, intelligent and well-informed people to give this instruction.

My candidate would be financial journalist Paul Gosling; name yours . . .

Serious wrongdoing, greed and self-interest in our institutions

Jill Segger, writer, journalist and associate director of Ekklesia, writes in the Friend, 13 July 2012: 

“The institutions which society once regarded as generally trustworthy are crumbling. Serious wrongdoing, greed and self-interest has been exposed among MPs, the press and the banks.” 

Christopher Hedges, journalist and Master of Divinity, writes even more strongly about the American situation:



Though we would qualify this ‘sweeping generalisation’, bearing in mind the responsible professionals we will all have met, there is ample evidence to support Jill Segger’s observation of crumbling institutions.  

She continues: 

“Relationships between politicians, the press and the police have come under close scrutiny and more than thirty arrests have been made as a result of the Operation Elvedon inquiry into the bribery of police and public officials. 

“The crisis of trust that we are experiencing is the sour fruit of the collapse of the post-war consensus, which underpinned a more collective and mutually responsible society. The ethos of the 1980s, with its fixed belief that market forces – in other words, money – must always dominate all other considerations, accelerated the process. The common good was for sale and there were many eager to snap it up at a bargain basement price.” 

An illuminating moment during the Treasury Select Committee’s questioning of Barclay’s chief executive, Bob Diamond, was recorded: 

“Although the proceedings resembled a light toasting rather than a serious grilling, anger at the bank’s rate-fixing was evident. However, Diamond’s smooth evasion and obfuscation appeared unshakeable until John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, asked him: ‘Do you know the founding principles of the original Quaker bank?’ 

“For an instant, panic flashed in Diamond’s eyes, but by the time Mann had named those principles, ‘honesty, integrity and plain dealing’, the well-trained corporate operator had once again composed his features into neutrality – ‘no comment’ made flesh.” 

People are acknowledging and seeking for those qualities of integrity, which momentarily disconcerted Bob Diamond 

 Ms Segger comments: 

“It was a powerful moment and, as a journalist and commentator, I have heard its unmistakable echo in my inbox and Twitter feed over the last few days. Something is stirring that goes well beyond the immediate reactive anger to MPs expenses, to press and police malpractice and to the stunning level of ruinous greed displayed by bankers.” 

This paragraph has been selected from her article as a fitting conclusion 

“Collapsing confidence in what were once the pillars of our common life now presents us with a clear choice.  We can either sink into an apathetic cynicism, which refuses to believe that good governance is still possible and as a consequence adopts many of the behaviours it condemns, or we can stand firm and sound deep to that within which recognises and longs for something better.”

The corporate-political nexus allows Barclays to avoid paying democratically agreed taxes

Prem Sikka, Professor of Accountancy (University of Essex) writes about this loss to the public purse:

“The banks have got it made. They have ripped off people with exorbitant charges and measly returns on savings. They have picked people’s pockets with the mis-selling of payment protection insurance, endowment mortgages, personal pensions, precipice bonds and split capital investment trusts – to name just a few. 

“Banks have driven up the price of food and commodities through speculation, a major cause of commodity inflation. The state has guaranteed their profits through the Private Finance Initiative and the channelling of pensions and benefit payments through bank accounts. The taxpayer has bailed out banks through loans, subsidies and guarantees that add up to more than £1 trillion. Yet, in return, the banks cannot be relied on to pay democratically agreed taxes . . . 

“In 2009, Barclays paid £113 million in corporation tax to the United Kingdom – about 2.4 per cent of its £4.6 billion global annual profit. Now the British Government has announced that Barclays tried to avoid £500 million of tax through two novel schemes . . . 

“The £500 million that Barclays sought to avoid is equivalent to the cost of 100 new primary schools, or employing 16,000 nurses . Yet Barclays and its tax advisors were not bothered about the social consequences. The bank’s defence was that other corporations are also doing the same and it has not broken any laws . . .

Read the Tribune article here.


Title amended and final sentence withdrawn – editor’s error, she regularly confuses Lloyds with Barclays:

“Barclays, bailed out by the taxpayer, avoids paying democratically agreed taxes”

Andy rightly comments: “Barclays were bailed out by the Qataris – not the UK tax payer in the style of RBS and HBOS.