How We Do Business

Once upon a time, if memory serves me right, there was an offence called conspiracy to obtain pecuniary advantage by deception, (Theft Act 1968: section 16). I mention this because in my former existence it was an offence other people committed against banks rather than bankers themselves. Of course there were bad eggs among the bankers, but they were, I think, the exception. Banking was boring because it was honest. Fraudsters were rare and looked upon as letting the side down. If found out, they faced ostracism and worse. Not so nowadays, it seems.

Obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception used to be a criminal offence and carried with it a sentence of up to five years (I’m not sure how the law stands now). Today we read that Bob Diamond has been ‘shamed’ into forfeiting his bonus from Barclays, but he has neither resigned nor been sacked. It may be that a criminal prosecution will follow, but for the moment we are faced with the unpleasant spectacle of corruption and dishonesty at Barclays being brazened out on the grounds that Mr Diamond ‘didn’t know’ what was happening. It may be that he didn’t know, and I certainly don’t want to accuse him of being dishonest himself, but what sort of management is it that disclaims responsibility for ANYTHING that happens in the company for which it is responsible?

Benedict was quite clear about the responsibility of the abbot: it was all-encompassing and extended to the next world as well as this. No one is suggesting that bankers should model themselves on Benedict’s abbot (though there might be a vast improvement if some of them did), but the question of managerial responsibility is a grave one. Too often we find senior mangers shrugging off responsibility when things go wrong, though they are quick enough to claim credit when things go right. What the situation at Barclays has highlighted goes beyond rate-fixing. It touches the very nature of how we do business and the standards by which we live our professional lives.

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6 thoughts on “How We Do Business”

  1. We realy should love God and our neighbor(s) as ourselves…shouldn’t we.

    But that taint of self never seems to rest.
    I thank God for all ‘good’ and honest people…wherever they might be.

    Thanks.

    • I’m afraid you cannot compel people to be honest anymore than you can compel them to be kind. They have to value honesty and integrity before they will make an effort in that regard.

  2. Interesting. I was discussing professional development with a colleague today, particularly in light of what it means to be a chartered, or professionally competent engineer. Part of this is showing the leadership and confidence to stand alone, and challenge others to maintain integrity, safety, compliance or similar. This surely applies to all professions, whether doctors, bankers or nuns! (profession as well as vocation?)

    • Sadly, many of us (=people in general) lack moral courage, but it seems to me that it is a necessary quality in a leader. The real question for me is not whether banking in Britain is particularly short of honest and decent people; it is whether we have a generation of leaders and senior managers who won’t take responsibility or act as leaders should.

  3. ~250M is quite a big fine. Unfortunately, there are plenty of big fish in the sea of Corporate dishonesty & are difficult to catch as they influence policy making & escape the net by legal loopholes & connectivity. People similar to Mr Diamond should repent & expose all involved in dishonest & corruptive practises, as a means of redemption?

    • The fine imposed on Barclays is small compared with its profits and doesn’t have a personal impact. I’d like to see a better match between individual and corporate responsibility, wouldn’t you?

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