Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Mutual Loathing Rogue Politicans and Rogue Bankers

Party conferences convey all the excitement of a domestic washing machine going through its cycles - fill, wash, rinse, spin, rinse, fast-spin.

This past month have been characterised by politicians calling for the heads of 'rogue bankers' whose behaviour has been described as "treacherous" and which has "shamed the country" and "undermined the economy". There is no doubt that the indigenous self-inflicted wounds caused by Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent to the country's reputation have become water cooler topics across the world and they have badly bruised the stature and credibility of the country.

These same politicians have not been so quick to call the the heads of their colleagues whose conniving and skullduggery ought to have seen several of them jailed for long periods over the past decade and a half; yet some of these geniuses still grace Leinster House. Is the kettle calling the pot black? Ireland's capacity to successfully prosecute white collar crime doesn't seem to have moved beyond the jailing of televison licence defaulters but multi-million € tribunals have been the the most adverse legal venue to a judge that a politician has experienced

Despite the ethnic and social diversification of Ireland since the mid 1990's the cohort that populate the board rooms are drawn from an extremely narrow subset of the population - a cosy cartel of the well connected who happen to be well healed, with many being alumni of the same schools, if not products of the same neighbourhood. They typically particpate in the boards of each others companies and manage to either subvert or ignore many of the initiatives that would foster greater accountability. An expanding economy has enabled much of their malfeasance to be concealed or at least opaque but current circumstances have rather brutally exposed their derring-do.

If a rising tide lifts all boats the ebbing tide does the opposite and has exposed all the chicanery that might otherwise have been hidden. We listen to regrets, deep regrets and unvreserved apologies. For what? Hardly for the venal act but purely because they have been exposed with no place to run or hide. Unfortunately too many of them fail to deduce the obvious and vacate the panelled board rooms. But no doubt they will be obliged too before too long.

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