The London Paper – 19 Feb 2007
I give vast amounts of my personal fortune away to charity but, of course, I don’t like to talk about it, let alone mention it in a newspaper. But I nearly fell off my leather chair at the Electric last Sunday when I opened the paper and read that Labour MP Peter Hain thought that we City types should give two thirds of our bonus to charity. I didn’t mind the sentiment but the rather ominous ‘or else ..’ bit almost made me choke on my Eggs Benedict. It seems that he ain’t worked out that we already pay 40% tax on our bonuses so that the Government can do worthwhile things like invade Middle Eastern countries. I don’t need to get my calculator out to work out that if we had to pay 66% of our gross bonus to charity too we’d actually get less than zero!
Generally, we City types feel ourselves above politics but this outburst had clearly touched a nerve with my colleagues, as I found out as we discussed it over a few glasses of Sancerre at the Coq d’Argent. I wasn’t the only one taken aback by a politician telling me what to do with my hard-earned cash. And why, we wanted to know, did he not feel the need to berate Wayne Rooney and other Premiership footballers about buying expensive sport cars? It’s hard to argue that these jokers contribute more to the betterment of society than us (which is a truly damning indictment).
But more importantly I discovered, after we had graduated on to the £20 a shot single malt whiskey, that lots of my colleagues already give money to charity. It may surprise readers but there is actually a grand tradition of rich City types handing out loads of their ill-gotten gains to those less privileged than them (e.g. pretty much everyone else). Indeed, although most people believe that compassion and the City go together about as well as the Klu Klux Clan and race relations, we’re actually quite a God-fearing bunch.
Maybe quietly many of us remember what the Good Lord himself said in that rather popular book he wrote a few years back: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mathew 19:24). This rather irritating point may help explain why the world’s most famous investor Warren Buffet recently donated $37bn to Bill Gates’ charity foundation.
I may not yet be as minted as Bill and Warren but I do know I’ve undertaken some fairly unchristian capers over my City career: I’ve told bare-faced lies to investors, spent debauched nights out with strippers ‘entertaining’ clients and bought crates of wine that cost more than the GDP of a small nation. That’s why I’m thinking about upping my already massive charitable donations since that’s probably what it’s going to take if I’m to convince Peter (that’s the saint, not Mr Hain) to hand me the keys to the big Stock Market in the sky