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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Should The CBI Chief Resign?

Despite purporting to represent 240,000 businesses of all sizes, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has long been an apologist for the UK's banks (who account for a substantial proportion of its funding). But in one hilariously poorly judged article in the Times, its director-general has finally eroded all credibility by calling for both a time-bar on PPI compensation claims and protection for UK banks against any successful court proceedings arising from their Libor fixing activities. 

Now you might think it particularly poor judgement to choose the current bank-driven economic scenario as a golden opportunity to demand yet more public assistance for the authors of our doom.  

And you might well believe it to be spectacularly naive, irresponsible and even downright absurd to demand protection for the beneficiaries of what is now the largest case of financial mis-selling in British history, at the expense of victims, from the very regulator who is bound to protect them.

But surely then you'd have to consider it to be successfully suicidal to invoke retrospective sovereign immunity for fixing a global interest rate benchmark while domestic criminal investigations are in progress, not to mention civil suits of the kind one or more of your own members might bring.

I can't imagine that even the banks would have the barefaced cheek to ask for any of this privately, let alone in an article in the Times. Still, you never can tell with Britain's institutions.

Finally, however, let's not ignore the CBI chief's bold and cunning suggestion that the banks' £12bn in provisions for PPI compensation might somehow represent spare funds that could, or would otherwise be lent to people and businesses (in other words, not to the low income earners who would have received it in compensation). 

Conflating the accounting for civil penalties with the privilege bestowed on banks by the state to create credit is not just silly in its own right. It also invites attention to the fact emphasised by Richard Werner, that only 10% of the credit created by UK banks in the exercise of that great public privilege is actually directed toward the people and businesses who need it to grow the economy, while the other 90% goes to fuel speculative deals in non-GDP financial assets. So, whatever you might think of opportunistic, ambulance-chasing PPI claims management firms, you might find it utterly contemptuous for anyone to suggest that consumers should forego compensation for being sold phoney insurance when it would barely amount to a rounding-error on such rampant, unchecked public exploitation. 

But maybe this is what the CBI means by "asking for immediate action to smooth the transition to a "new normal" in banking lending [sic]."

Yes, Mr Crudland, I reckon you should get your coat.

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