Posts Tagged: trust
Lives Well Lived
September 30 2020
Earlier this year, Richard “Tigger” Hoare died, sadly one of this year’s many Covid fatalities. His Times obituary can be found here. A highly capable banker of the old school, coming from a long-standing banking family who still own the family bank established in 1672, he was proud to state: “I have never minded challenging things, if there is something that needs to be challenged.” And he meant it too, as the last paragraph of his obituary makes clear –
“When the regulators interviewed the partners 20 years ago, they asked me what I thought was the greatest threat to the bank, and rather foolishly I said, ‘I think you are.’ They were very cross!”
Well, even regulators, maybe especially them, need to be challenged now and again.
Sir Harry Evans, journalist and editor of the Sunday Times at a time when investigative journalism rather than clickbait articles was valued, who died last week, was another who understood very well the need to challenge those in authority. During his time as editor he won famous victories over those who tried to stop the publication of diaries by Cabinet Ministers (Richard Crossman) explaining what really goes on in government and those seeking to cover up what was known about the thalidomide drug which caused such misery to so many families.
There is a lovely line in his obituary – “Evans combined technical proficiency with moral passion to an unusual degree.”
A combination of technical proficiency, challenge and moral passion: if only we had more people in positions of power and authority of whom this could be said.
Photo by author.
The Case of the Missing Documents
September 17 2019
My very first case as a junior solicitor with Slaughter and May was the litigation around the International Tin Council, a long-since forgotten entity set up by various countries via international treaty to control the price of tin. Its attempts to manipulate the price of tin were unsuccessful and it went bust owing a number of banks and commodity brokers large amounts of money. They sought to recover their losses from the countries which had set it up. Ultimately the Lords (as it then was) ruled that they could not do so, the entity being legally separate from the countries behind it.
One of the many issues explored at length in the case was whether the matter was justiciable at all. Justiciability seemed a strange – if fascinating – concept which provided hours of interest in the Court of Appeal and then the Lords. And then never came up again in any of the cases I worked on. It seemed to be one of those esoteric pieces of knowledge, of interest only to a few.
Until now – when it is all over the news in relation to the prorogation of Parliament.
But in all the fuss about whether the courts can review the government’s decision, one of the issues which has not perhaps had the attention it should has been Parliament’s request for documentation relating to the decision to prorogue, a request which has been denied by the government. That request arose out of a belief – however well-founded or misguided we don’t yet know and may never find out – that there was something iffy about the decision, that it may have been done for improper motives or in a questionable manner. The government’s refusal to comply with Parliament’s request and to provide any sworn evidence at all in support of its case to the courts has not allayed those fears. And yet those missing documents might well turn out to be highly relevant, given the inferences which were drawn by the Court of Sessions from the absence of any sworn evidence from the government in support of its position.
Why this might be so and why how a decision is arrived at is as important as what the decision is are explored further in this article.
Whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision, trust is essential to the good functioning of any organisation, especially government. It should not need a court case to establish that.
November 14 2018
2,185 days after he was convicted of two counts of fraud by abuse of position at Southwark Crown Court on 20th November 2012 after a 10-week trial, and despite a shamelessly self-pitying and self-justifying campaign to avoid the consequences of his actions, Adoboli has finally been deported to his home country, Ghana.
The wheels of British justice grind exceedingly slow but they do – eventually – get there.
Let’s put those 2,185 days into a bit of perspective.
- Amount of money lost by his fraudulent trading: US$2,500,000,000. (If the sums spent by UBS on remediation and dealing with the consequences of this loss were added in, the totals would be truly eye-watering.)
- Days spent on remand before his trial: 267
- Days spent by my team and others working on the investigation: 438
- Sentence: 7 years or 2,556 days
- Time actually spent in prison following his sentence: 946
As the City of London Police said following his conviction: “This was the UK’s biggest fraud, committed by one of the most sophisticated fraudsters the City of London Police has ever come across.” The trial judge, Mr Justice Keith, admirably summed up his character when he described him as a gambler, arrogant and in denial and said that he was: “profoundly unselfconscious” of his own failings.
But despite his masterly conduct of the trial, Mr Justice Keith did not explain in his sentencing remarks why what Adoboli did was so wrong, why fraud – of any type – is so damaging and this lacuna is perhaps symptomatic of our failure to take fraud as seriously as we should, as some other countries do. After all, if the UK’s biggest fraud does not result in the maximum sentence, what will?
Fraud is too often seen as a victimless or somewhat technical crime or, perhaps more accurately, the victims, especially institutions, are seen as unsympathetic and partly responsible for their plight. After all, who cares if an arrogant bank loses some money. They are not like some naive widow conned out of her life savings. Who gets hurt, really?
But the damage that fraud does is not the loss of money, bad as that can be. Nor is it even the damage to reputation – and that can be very bad indeed and much more long-lasting than most think.
Fraud is damaging because it is so corrosive of the trust that is the essence of banking, that is – or should be – at the heart of any working environment, at the heart of any good relationship with colleagues, bosses, clients, the public, at the heart of any well-functioning community. Fraud breaks those bonds of trust. When someone is trusted and they let you down by lying, by cheating, by taking advantage, by behaving like Adoboli did, like many other fraudsters have done, real people are hurt. Worse – the very idea of having confidence – in the institution, in your colleagues, in banking as a dependable underpinning of our society – is damaged and takes time to rebuild. A fraudster does not just destroy their own reputation. Their actions chip away at the reputation of everyone else in their sector. And they make it just that bit harder for those people – however good, however hard-working, however trustworthy – to be trusted by others, by the public.
That is the real harm that fraud does. We would do well to take it more seriously than we do.