You may have spotted The Slog heaping praise on the G20 men and women last week. Well, working their proverbials off as ever, finance ministers were at the negotiating table until 5am on Saturday before they got the breakthrough agreement: to drop proposals for a worldwide levy on banks.
I doubt if more than 95% of informed opinion expected that output; but be that as it may, the 20 G’s of centrifugal force applied to banking malfeasance is going to squash the evildoers…..and the plan is to do this by focusing on the Basel III banking regulations. This (the banking scions believe) is the best way to control risk in banking.
I cannot believe I am alone in thinking, ‘Sod the risk, what about some retribution?’ But we mustn’t forget Hank Paulson’s advice that “assigning blame isn’t going to solve the problem”. It’s hard to argue with such a searing moralist as Hank on that one, but that was eighteen months ago. And like the guy at the stoning, I want to know when we can start, you know, throwing stuff.
As the Wall St Journal put it yesterday, ‘Without global agreement, the size of the levies is likely to be smaller than otherwise, to keep a reasonably level playing field’. That is of course fair….but here we go again: I don’t want to be fair to bankers. I want bankers to be hung with piano wire by their nuts over a pit of deadly kite snakes. I want to give them vengefully ironic control over when they end the nut-pain by cutting the wire, thereafter to suffer a ghastly death from multiple kite-bites in the wriggly depths below at their own hands.
It’s all very well to joke about this sort of thing, but all over the world – right across the political spectrum from Hard-line Left to Hard-faced Right – people are watching this charade and saying to themselves (and/or the person next to them at the bar) “These regulators just aren’t trying hard enough”.
And they’re right. The quickest way to fill a website with hitworthy content is to Google ‘bankers doing shitty things’, and then click the News option. Look, you can even replace ‘bankers’ with ‘Goldman Sachs’ and have more than enough copy.
“Enough of this relentless cynicism” I hear Tim Geithner and George Osborne cry. But George and Tim, you don’t get out enough.
In the UK during 2009, suspicious trading took place before 30.6 per cent of UK takeovers. The London Financial Times tells us this is ‘the highest level in eight years’, but to be straight with you here, I’m not that worried about the trend data: my mind simply goes ‘A third? One in three? How quickly could we reinstate the death penalty?’