Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Undercooked shark steak

I haven't had a good rant for ages, and I feel the need for one, so it may as well be about banks.  And government.  And everything in between.

Bob Diamond, the newly appointed boss of Barclays, was hauled over the coals of a Commons select committee this morning, to be grilled on the hot topic of 'bankers' bonuses'.  Of course, the coals were lukewarm, and he didn't even get lightly char-broiled.  His people had, as one's people do, thoroughly prepared him for the inevitable questions from the viciously aggressive prawns of the committee, so he was able to say, with an apparently straight face, that there has been a period of 'remorse and apology' from the banks (WHAT??) but now we need to achieve closure and move on, and blah blah; and that he can't say whether or not he'll be renouncing his bonus this year because he hasn't yet been told how much it is (is that relevant?) and anyway he'll have to ask the wife (I'm not making any of this up); and, most barefacedly blatantly, that the invaluable contribution of the investment banking industry to the UK economy mustn't be overlooked and must be rewarded.

He was filmed afterwards leaving the committee venue, smiling coyly, as well he might. 

Why hasn't anyone (except me, but I don't count) suggested that these bonuses be in some way tied to what the beneficiaries claim to have done to earn them?  By that, I don't just mean how much so-called money they appear to have made, but how they did it.  Make the recipient justify it.  Reward good core activities like responsible lending, payment services - all the things we used to rely on banks to do - but don't, don't reward the kind of bubble-blowing that got us into this mess in the first place and seems poised to do it again.

But then, I'm just a shrimp amongst a sea full of raw prawns.  We don't stand a chance against the sharks, especially when we don't know how to cook them.

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