The chairman fails to see the funny side of a recent newspaper article
'Hang on,' said the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet, snatching back his application to replace Howard Davies as nanny-in-chief at the Financial Services Authority. 'Before you read that, tell me, how many PRs does it take to fill a stairwell?'
'Oh, I know this one,' I said. 'The answer's 22.'
'Swine,' said the chairman. 'Oh well, it wasn't that funny anyway.'
'Nonsense,' I replied, taking a sip from my pint of Ronan's Stalker. 'I haven't laughed so much in ages. I mean, February's Merrill Lynch fund manager survey was quite funny. You know, that new question on the type of valuation approach managers are using at the moment, offering various answers like earnings, cashflow, bond relativity, lucky-dip, dividends, coin-toss and so on.
'But ' and I promise I'm not making this up ' 5% of the managers surveyed said they didn't know what valuation approach they used, which I find more than a little scary, if not wholly unexpected. Since there were only eight specific options, however, I'm assuming SmallBlue Planet was one of the 'none-of-the-aboves'.
'Anyway, as I said, sort of funny; Stairwell Communications very funny; but Paul Foot writing about split-capital investment trusts in The Guardian ' comedy genius. Did you see it? The Treasury Committee's report, which lays into the general naughtiness of those split-cap scamps, is itself laid into for not being socialist enough.
'Sure, the creators and sellers of all those accidents waiting to happen should be ashamed of themselves but not nearly as much, apparently, as chairman McFall and the other Labour-facing committee members. The way Foot sees it, the real crime is that the report to which they put their name does not even hint of socialist measures.'
'Socia-what measures?' interrupted the chairman. 'I don't think I'm familiar with the word.'
'I fear that may be the nice Mr Foot's point,' I said, pulling out the newspaper cutting I just happened to have in my pocket. 'To quote the great man: 'It is the complete absence of any democratic accountability over the split investment trust moguls ¦''
I stopped for a moment and looked at the chairman, who seemed to be getting increasingly confused. 'I assume we're good on 'mogul' but a bit fuzzy on 'democratic' and 'accountability'?' I asked.
'Pretty much,' said the chairman. 'But don't let me break the flow. You can translate everything into English for me later.'
'Fine by me,' I shrugged. 'Where was I? Oh yes ' 'It is the complete absence of any democratic accountability over the split investment trust moguls, and their backers in the banks and accountancy firms, that is the real scandal. The problem is not, as the committee pretends, how to protect investors from commercial malpractice but how to bring the whole stinking mess of unaccountable capitalism under democratic control.''
'But that's fantastic,' said the chairman suddenly looking a whole lot brighter. 'What is?' I asked. 'The 'mess of unaccountable capitalism' part? I shouldn't have thought you would have wanted that under democratic control, no matter how bad it smelt.'
'No, no,' said the chairman. 'The bit before that. Am I to understand that this lefty chap is saying investors don't need protection from industry malpractice? Maybe we should get him to go for Davies's job instead of me.'
'Before you start drafting an application for him, perhaps I should explain further,' I said. 'As far as I can tell, Foot's point is that MPs shouldn't be worrying about individual victims of any financial scandal ' in this instance splits ' because, by definition, all investors have money to spare. To put it another way, it serves the capitalist pigdogs right.
'However, were Foot to annex the big seat at Canary Wharf ' come the revolution, as it were ' regulation would be approached from a different angle. You see, he believes what McFall and co should have been looking to do as members of the Labour party was to 'protect society from the corrupt machinations of the capitalist system.' What's missing from the report is even 'a hint of the public ownership and control necessary to protect us from City parasites.' So ' are you still up for proposing him for the top job at the FSA?'
The chairman had resumed his perplexed expression. 'Here,' he said. 'Are you going to give my application the once over or not?'
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