The London Paper – 18 Sept 2009
Well, it’s been emotional! This is the last ever edition of thelondonpaper and hence this is my final column on these esteemed pages. Still, we’ve pretty much seen it all over the last three years, haven’t we? Things became so absurd there for a minute that I had to pinch myself daily just to make sure I wasn’t in the middle of some hideous nightmare. I think it’s worth recalling some of the more disturbing highlights of those tumultuous years … particularly as it will help remind us what total scumbags people can become when all that drives them is the single-minded pursuit of money!
When I first started writing for this paper I was simply another narked-off City boy – it’s just that unlike others I had this column as an outlet for my everyday frustrations. I was still to be found every morning at 6.30am on Shepherds Bush tube station wearing my pinstripe and reading my FT as I waited for a central line train to Bank. I would trudge wearily into my firm’s dazzling office trying to forget the previous nights’ excesses and praying that there’d be no news in my sector that would require me to wax lyrical on the trading floor. The day would usually be spent composing spreadsheets and chatting to clients with the occasional trip to a Michelin-starred restaurant or high-class strip joint.
Things first started getting damn weird in September 2007 with the run on Northern Crock. Up until then I’d spent a year anonymously exposing the City’s more despicable practices. But whoring, non-stop insider trading, endless boozing and rampant drug abuse by Armani-clad degenerates all paled into comparison with what bankers would show they were capable of. Now nothing they do surprises us!
Over the last two years hardly a week has gone by without some ever more shocking development. We’ve seen predatory mortgage lenders con poor yanks into taking out loans they couldn’t afford just so they could reap the commission. We’ve witnessed nefarious bankers knowingly infect the world with over a trillion dollars of financial products backed by these dodgy loans just so they could inflate their bonuses. We’ve seen the sacked bosses of banks who sanctioned their actions walk off with 100 million dollar pay-offs.
We’ve also had to read with ever-growing incredulity about a French rogue trader losing his bank 4.9bn Euros, a sophisticated New York con artist ripping his clients off to the tune of $65bn and a fool who brought his bank to its knees awarded a £700K annual pension. Meanwhile, politicians and regulators on both sides of the pond, who initially seemed so keen on radical banking reform, have shown themselves to have marble-sized cojones as they have succumbed to the relentless lobbying of powerful financiers. They’ve watered down their proposals and now bonuses are back and money has been reinstated as the one true god!
The theme that connects all the above scandals is one that has plagued man throughout history: the love of money (which according to some book I once read is the root of all evil!) This nasty human trait is why we’re in the trouble we’re in. The former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, alluded to this last week when he said that ‘unless somebody can find a way to change human nature we will have another crisis.’
But I feel that it is over the last decade or two that greed, and it’s pernicious bed-fellow materialism, have got truly out of control … and I should know as I was seduced by it myself for a while there! It seems to me that those bankers who brought about this recession were merely the finest proponents of the unfettered capitalism that now rules our globe. Unfortunately, most people seem to have bought into Thatcher and Reagan’s stated belief that there is “no such thing as society” – just a dog eat dog world where we do nothing but fight each other for the scraps on the table. There was a time when religion or left-wing idealism used to drive people but they’ve been discredited and nowadays the majority merely seek material betterment and nothing more. It is this relentless search for better trainers and a flasher motor that will create an ever-more divided, violent society as well as environmental catastrophe unless we can somehow rediscover our more angelic qualities.
Whoa! Sorry about that rant… must have been that last triple vodka and tonic talking! The fact is that I’m totally gutted that this is my final chance to tell you about dodgy bankers and gutless politicians and I’ve taken to drink to drown my sorrows! I’ll miss you and the good folk at thelondonpaper. They took a gamble taking me on and I managed to write a best-seller because of their faith.
But don’t worry. My mission to expose the hideous practices I witnessed for twelve years as a stockbroker isn’t over. You can continue catching my rants on my website (www.cityboy.biz) and perhaps some other brave newspaper will take me on. Also, without sounding too much like Bono, you can rest assured that I’m using my escape from the rat race to do my bit for various charities … though, of course, like all good Radio 1 DJs I don’t like to talk about that!
Anyway, I’m hoping that one good thing may come out of this crisis. Maybe it will make us all realise that, despite Gordon Gecko’s persuasive arguments, greed isn’t good … and that’s the most important thing we need to do.
Thank you and good night.