Just how corrupt is British politics? The answer can be found by analysing the knavish relationships fostered between those responsible for policy decisions and the banking system, which barely weathered the economic crisis capitulated by the ‘credit crunch’ and double-dip recession, from which the United Kingdom is haltingly emerging. So typical are the everyday media exposes of MP scandals and financial reward for dishonest wielding of political power and influence, it could be argued that the British public have normalised corruption. Political dishonesty is now the usual state of affairs, the expected behaviour of those privileged few in which we no longer place our trust. So who are the top political players in recent British banking corruption?
Consider Lord Green, Trade Minister and former CEO (2003 – 2006) and Chairman of HSBC until 2010. The Labour Party warned that Green has ‘serious questions to answer’ following revelations that he was responsible for money laundering and involvement with cash movement for Mexican drug cartels, terrorism and pariah states while he was at the helm at HSBC. A damning Senate Report alleges the bank has a “pervasively polluted culture”, concluding that subsidiaries transferred billions of dollars from countries such as Iran and Syria in addition to engaging in potentially illegal trade with Burma. Despite emails from the bank’s Head of Compliance warning of such breaches, and the introduction of new internal policy, it appears that illicit transactions continued and Green — government advisor on banking and potential candidate for the role of Governor of the Bank of England — refused comment. Let’s not forget that Green was the Chairman of the British Bankers’ Association during the Libor-rigging scandal (manipulation of global interest rates) which led to the £290m fine on Barclays Bank and the departure of the CEO, Bob Diamond.
The Conservative Party have consistently attempted to block European regulation of the finance industry. In February it emerged that the government strongly opposed proposals to limit the size of bonuses paid to banking sector executives, responding by railing against the financial transaction tax which consequently led to closer scrutiny of the Party’s funding arrangements with the City of London.
Recall also, reports that one of David Cameron’s closest advisors and former Conservative Party Treasurer, Michael Spencer was investigated by the FSA last year due to Spencer’s brokerage firm, ICAP being one of a numerous institutions alleged to have manipulated bank interest rates, leading to allegations of a lack of transparency in government and failure to enforce tough action against the banking industry.
Michael Fallon MP, Deputy Chairman of the Tories was director of interdealer broker Tullett Prebon from 2006 (re-appointed following resignation in 2010), a company dominating the rates market and in 2012 was forced to respond to FSA enquiries into malpractice. It may come as no surprise that Fallon was keen to maintain his position with the brokerage firm given that he reportedly receives £7,000 for 20 hours work quarterly, suggesting that while he may be implicated in financial corruption, his own bank account is in a state of rude health.
And let’s not forget Francis Maude and George Osbourne. Cabinet Office Minister Maude was paid by Barclays to sit on its Asia-Pacific Advisory Committee between 2005 and 2009, although Maude denied any executive function or being ensnared in the climate of fiscal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Osbourne, isn’t shy of pointing his somewhat hypocritical finger, criticising the banking culture which foreshadowed Britain’s financial downturn and condemning his opposite number Ed Balls for failing to regulate banks, whilst himself making strenuous efforts to court the City via the Conservative City Circle. This is the same man who backed a Tory policy calling for deregulation of the mortgage market in 2007.
With men like this is control of our economy, we might be well advised to keep our savings under our mattresses.