Bankers must behave, or be shackled

Published on Mail Online, January 20, 2013.

It is surprisingly hard to change human behaviour. Most of us would have thought the last few years had taught bankers their ugly culture of heedless greed must stop.

Yet, as The Mail on Sunday reveals today, even the near-collapse of the world financial system and a general public revulsion at their excesses have not curbed this  sector’s bad habits. 

The events that shame Barclays Wealth are not in the distant past. They took place as recently as 2011 and 2012. Staff pursued revenue at all costs. Senior figures are said to have ruled by fear.

And when an internal report condemned these activities, it was destroyed and ignored, as if it had never existed.

Cover-ups are always easy to understand. The temptation to panic and hide the  evidence is always there, though the lesson of history is that such actions invariably make the crisis worse.

It is the behaviour detailed by the report that is incomprehensible. It is almost incredible that, after all that has taken place since the great crash, any conscious adult person could not see that this would lead to disaster.

The old rule stands. Men are qualified for liberty only by their willingness to restrain themselves. If they cannot control their own greed and ambition, then others will do it for them, through laws, courts and even prisons.

The greedy, irresponsible bankers exposed by this report have helped to forge heavy chains and shackles, which are now likely to be placed on their  colleagues and on their entire industry, permanently damaging our economy. Perhaps there is still a little time. If there is, let us hope they finally learn their lesson … (full text).

Links:

Shamed Barclays bankers face huge cuts on bonuses: New boss set to act after pledge to halt rewards for rogue staff, by Simon Watkins, January 19, 2013. (My comment: a cut on bonus is still a bonus!!).

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