It is well said that in politics, a real truth is never established until it is officially denied.
My good friend Monty Rankin from the US sends me a clipping from a US agency, ‘Bloomberg’, which itemises the death of an important piece of proposed UK legislation. It reads;
“...The U.K. abandoned a much campaigned-for change to legislation that would have made it easier to prosecute corrupt companies in the latest nod to a new era of deregulation for business under the re-elected Conservatives.
In a written answer to a lawmaker’s question posted Monday, junior Justice Minister Andrew Selous said the "ministers have decided not to carry out further work" on an expansion of corporate criminal liability laws as there is "little evidence of corporate economic wrongdoing going unpunished." “
I am still reeling from the sheer insouciance of this piece of blatant mendacity and official fibbing. No wonder they picked a minister no-one has ever heard of to trot out this tissue of lies. If it had been announced by George Osborne, every newspaper would have picked up on it, instead of routinely ignoring it as all the tame Tory press has done.
Ever since the Tories were re-elected, they have been engaging in a concerted campaign to undermine laws and regulations designed to bring proper controls to the activities of the legions of organised criminals, spivs, wide-boys and other bankers who populate the City of London, and who serve only the interests of the very rich within the Tory party.
As Will Hutton has said, “...the England over which it (the Tory Party) aims to preside, never-endingly, will be a poisonous, inward-looking and mean-spirited place. It will be welcome only to the super-rich and their insider networks, denying the mass of English citizens the structures and institutions through which they can live the good lives to which they aspire...”
I have already written about the way the Government are seeking to undermine the effect of the legislation which exists to regulate the conduct of business with Politically Exposed Persons, leaving the financial sector now wide open to accept the proceeds of every piece of political skulduggery and chicanery committed by dictators, oligarchs and third-world crooks.
They are doing this deliberately and with every intention so to do, because it is directly enriching their friends in the Square Mile, and in so doing, it is facilitating their own well-heeled futures.
This criminal money is flooding into London and is being used to prop up massive volumes of property speculation as faceless foreign plutocrats buy up off-plan penthouses and luxury apartments, aided by an army of money laundering lawyers and accountants, and secure in the knowledge that their ownership is disguised behind a web of off-shore companies maintained in tax-secrecy havens and organised criminal banking facilities in foreign jurisdictions.
Now, the proceeds of bribery and corruption, the mainstay of dirty business and rotten ethical dealings, particularly in vast swathes of the Middle East, where no deal is completed with the fathers, sons, uncles, cousins or nephews of the ruling families, unless massive sweeteners and fabulous backhanders are paid and given, is being officially ignored. Doing any kind of business in the Gulf States is synonymous with corruption and bribery on a massive scale. Much the same is true in the new kleptocracy of South Africa, where former freedom fighters, now in quasi-official positions, swan around demanding huge bribes, bulging brown envelopes and bungs in order to permit business contracts to be guaranteed.
The whole point of the introduction of the laws dealing with bribery and corruption was to bring a series of regulations and constraints to the activities of the crooked and rotten business givers and getters. It is no good just parroting the tired old mantra ‘...if we don’t pay the bribes, someone else will...’ – that is just a flabby excuse for continuing the status quo.
Prosecutors, academics and lawyers have petitioned the government for years to widen the Bribery Act, a 2011 law that allowed companies to be prosecuted for failing to prevent economic crimes such as fraud and money laundering as well as bribery.
And the business sector has fought back at every stage. They don’t like being made to be responsible for their actions and the activities of their servants and agents. They don’t like having to take simple precautions which require their staff and agents to be educated in the law and practice of anti-bribery. They don’t want to have to become responsible for a regime of ‘best practice’ designed to prevent the giving and taking of bribes, and they don’t want to have to be made to do this because they are greedy, dishonest, unethical and above all, moral cowards.
It is the same with the requirements of the laws designed to prevent and forestall money laundering – they don’t want to have to be made responsible for these laws because it might mean that they will lose the chance to dishonestly enrich themselves from the proceeds of others’ crimes. Just look at the conduct of HSBC and the way they were prepared to make a business case decision to dishonestly launder billions of dollars of drug money for the Mexican cartels. Don’t tell me this all happened by accident, it was a deliberate and calculated gamble taken by a bunch of serially dishonest men with the aim of profiting thereby.
You only have to review the activities of other banks and the financial institutions to see the exponential volume of criminal wrong-doing that has been committed, but which has gone unpunished.
Far from there being the "little evidence of corporate economic wrongdoing going unpunished." of which the badly-informed junior minister spoke, there has been a tidal wave of criminality which has washed over the Square Mile. There is not one major bank which has not been caught up in this torrent of filth and sleaze, but only one, minor trader has been recently sent to prison.
What about all the rest of the executives and the senior bankers, who have still picked up their bonuses and their rich financial pickings, whose jobs remain secure and who can still count on the Tory party to continue to deliver the goodies?
Fining banks is not a means of punishing them. It merely means that the pain is felt by the shareholders. In all fairness, they should be the ones to register their concern by voting out the criminals who run the banks, but they know which side their bread is buttered and so they just blindly go along to get along.
Now we begin to see the true nature of the business as conducted by the City and its denizens. They want to be free of all constraints which might get in the way of making money, although we should not be too surprised, nothing has changed since the 18th century when Alexander Baring, 2nd son of Francis Baring, and scion of the famous banking family thundered; ‘...I consider every regulation to be a restriction and, as such, contrary to that freedom which I have held to be the first principle of the well-being of commerce..’ Yes, well, it took Nick Leeson to show the Barings what ignoring regulations meant!
But freedom from all constraints is what they demand and the Tory Government, and this Tory Government particularly, is going to give them what they want.
The decision marks a u-turn by the government, which said in 2012 that the options for dealing with corporate offending were "limited" and the number of convictions each year was ‘too low’ as public displeasure about the Libor and other banking scandals grew.
Of course they were too low, you can hardly complain about the low conviction rate if your policy is to routinely ignore every scrap of evidence of criminal wrongdoing
"This is a victory for the business lobby that want a soft-touch approach on corporate regulation,” Susan Hawley from NGO Corruption Watch has saidl. “The government will have little credibility on the international stage if it can’t get its own house in order. The idea that there is no evidence that corporate economic wrongdoing is going unpunished is frankly laughable."
The outcome will be a disappointment to the Serious Fraud Office, which has campaigned for the change since Director David Green took over in 2012. The SFO declined to comment. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice declined to comment beyond Selous’s statement.
The decision is in keeping with the approach to business from the Conservative Party since taking power in May. In a speech in June, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said that “simply ratcheting up ever-larger fines that just penalize shareholders, erode capital reserves and diminish the lending potential of the economy is not, in the end, a long-term answer.” The government is keen to harness the financial system to drive growth.
Put that another way and what you can read is;
“...We, the Tory Government do not care about laws or global regulations designed to prevent international criminals from profiting from their crimes. We don’t care where the money comes from as long as it keeps coming into London and our friends in the City can use it to make profits, for themselves, ad by extension, for the Government...”
In many ways, we should not be surprised.
David Cameron’s Cabinet boasts many millionaires, men and women who have made fortunes from the activities of the Square Mile. He himself is the son of a stockbroker, so no stranger to arcane City practices and common Square Mile conventions there, one suspects. George Osborne, son of and heir to a Baronetcy is an example of a modern Tory politician who has not had a real job in his life, apart for a bit of scribbling for the Daily Telegraph between leaving university and joining the Tory Party machine. These men represent a background of immense monied privilege and close social ties which have flowed over into their political life. It is hardly surprising that they would see the City and its denizens in the most positive light. They cannot have, nor, in fairness, do they seek to represent their recognition of or their identification with the lives of the vast majority of ordinary men and women in the UK today. They represent a party, a standard of living, a class, which is frankly out of control, bloated by its addiction to money from whatever source it comes, and representing an elitism which is damaging the entire fabric of the lives of the vast majority of the people of Britain.
Will Hutton has captured the real crisis at the heart of this Conservative Government.
“The tragedy of British politics is that today our centre-right has gone rogue. The English Conservative party, which always had a tendency to be as fierce a partisan for its class as any party of the extreme left, has so deified its self-appointed role as custodian of Englishness that it has given itself permission to put its own interests before those of the country...’
Those interests also include those of the City of London and its adherents, which is why this Tory Government will never do anything remotely likely to undermine the interests of their family friends in the Square Mile, and why junior ministers are able to make public utterances such as that made by Andrew Selous, without any shame or sense of the ridiculous.