21 Jan 2009

Is it time to feel the bankers' ermine collars?

There’s nothing like a quick visit to America to remind you of the interesting contrasts between our two nations – divided as they are by a common tongue.

In the United States President Obama tells bankers to show responsibility and forego bonuses because “there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times.” In America the senate has arraigned banker after banker before its oversight and government reform committee.

In Britain the name-calling by the prime minister has been minimal and the prosecutions nil. Bankers have been conspicuous by their absence in the media (the signal exception, Barclays’ John Varley on Channel 4 News last week) and no chief executive from one of the “big five” banks has yet appeared in front of the treasury select committee.

We have repeatedly requested to speak to Lord Stevenson about the downfall of HBOS, the misjudgements, mistakes and more that cost so many savers so dear. He has steadfastly refused to appear.

And he is not alone. Former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin, whose bank faces losses of up to £28bn for 2008, continues to refuse to come on the programme.

The worst financial disaster of all time, the world pulled down, and no-one – but no-one – has to give an account of themselves. Perhaps it’s time to change all this and start feeling some collars. Even if some of them are ermine.

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