February 11th, 2009
11:37 AM GMT
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Watching politicians dissect the bankers responsible for some of the worst of the financial crises has been very satisfying - but it has brought out the very worst in me: the drive for revenge.

The former chairmen and CEOs of HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland had an uncomfortable time being questioned by the UK Treasury Select Committee, a government panel investigating how these financial giants ended up needing multi-billion dollar bailouts.

They all duly said sorry, and then tried to tell us why it really wasn't their fault the banks collapsed, and that they'd personally lost more money than most.

But I wanted more. I wanted mea culpas of the gravest kind. "It happened on my watch. I am responsible. It is my fault." And of these there was naught.

Some came across with great sincerety. Former HBOS chairman Lord Stevenson, seemed truly troubled by what had taken place.

Others gave the impression this had been a nasty setback to an otherwise nakedly ambitious career - For instance Andy Hornby of HBOS's failure to acknowledge any personal culpability. It is easy to see why, for some, he has become a poster child for banking excess.

I am not proud of myself for wanting this revenge. But since we will be paying for these men's (and others) mistakes for years to come I feel justified.



soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. David McCormick

    I totally agree. The world,s citizens are owed an apology from:

    1/ The entire banking industry in the USA and much of Europe

    2/ The Fedearl Reserve/ Treasuries of the USA, UK, Central Bank of Europe et al

    3/ The USA Congress, the Governments of the Western world

    February 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  2. James Cyrat

    I would like to see the people that are writing all of this, to try and do that in a better way.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  3. BRUCE RUBIN

    Nothing has changed in the banking system and everyone running the US government knows it. These giant corporate banks are run by corrupt CEO's who just care about there year end bonus so the loan originators are told write so many loans or your fired.They then give loans to unqualified people and then the bank sells the loans to freddy and fanny and the people running freddy and fanny and these CEO's shower the politicians with cash not to fix the problem. All you need to do is create an LLC and someone will give you a loan you cannot afford to pay back,There isnt any locked up credit markets it is a lie. Furthermore, the Tarp money is being used to buy up the small private honest banks reason unkown at least for me. It all started when Reagan was in office,A little known University of Chicago economics professor Milton Freidman decided to make a name for himself and basically started preaching to the choir and gave speaches on the benefits of deregulating the US banking system.All the protections instituted after the last depression were removed and here we are.

    February 11, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  4. karvictho

    The reason you aren't hearing mea culpas (at least sincere ones) is that all these folks believe that they are entitled to retain their position, monetary compensation, and rarified lifestyles despite total and complete failure, which in my estimation seems to rise to legal theft.

    I am waiting for the workers' revolution. Seems we need more to galvanize ourselves in the US than total devastation of our economy, and the subverting of our being a major political and economic force in the world.

    P.S. By the way, thanks Richard for speaking in plain English and doing financial news once again!

    February 11, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  5. Karen Novachek

    Public flogging-your comments this morning on CNN about our thirst for revenge were insightful. We do want someone to "suffer", but how does that help us more forward? I wish reporters would get beyond talking about who is to blame and focus on the things that are being put forward as possible solutions. I wish someone in the news media would say, "We have to give this a chance, things up to this point may not have worked as designed, but that does not mean that we should look for blame but rather let's believe that what is being considered can be helpful".
    People around the world are the ones who are "suffering" and continually talking about who is to blame does not help them. We do need to live today. We can do very little about yesterday and only believe that tomorrow will be better. I know I may sound naive, but I think it is a more mature and reliastic view than pointing fingers.
    Thank you for so clearly describing our curren actions.t

    February 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
  6. Ivan Marenić

    I've seen this bonuses are touching 40 mils a year for some bank CEOs.

    Considering "we are not from the same planet" this might seem normal for them. Not for us though.

    However, this is only top of the BONUS iceberg. Would be wonderful if we could see structure of other bonuses in some bank – so we can see complete iceberg. CEO has directors ... and they have their own associates ... and they are all on bonus list.

    Interesting news would be to see how huge is that?

    Maybe 40 mils is just pity cache ...

    February 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm |
  7. Peter Vaz

    Dear Richard- I enjoys your program in the ME. and it transports me from depressions during recessions.Do you think this huge Stimilius Packages will work? I think no! Why? Study the history of land and then the economics because Republicians preaches liberty (liberisation of economy)to all nations while Democrats protects (protectism of economy) to their demographics.The nations must now think to safegaurd their own stock markets rather than relying what is happening at the wall street.

    February 12, 2009 at 5:32 am |
  8. EFBarlieb

    Plenty of blame to share: the politicians who wanted everyone to "own" his house and forced subprime underwriting or worse and who changed the normal guidelines to promote euphoria; the "buyers" without savings or adequate income who expected to "flip" homes; the brokers/realtors who fed the ever-higher mania and helped complete fraudulent loan applications; every speculator including builder and contractor who treated housing as a commodity rather than an essential of life; every bank which offered loans without collateral yet packaged and sold bits as international products, destroying century-old reputations, all rating agencies who continued to differentiate junk without due diligence, auditors who happily signed the annual statements loaded with financial timebombs, Paulson who allowed a behemoth to collapse but protected his own backside and, most of all, Greenspan, who recognized irrational exuberance in the '90s but wouldn't allow that to unwind naturally and instead slashed and held down interest rates, punishing savers and feeding a much bigger and more dangerous "bubble" with "free money". What did he expect "rational", let alone "irrational" people to do?

    February 12, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  9. GR

    Our Economical Woes

    The reason the financial institutes and banks are in the doldrums is as old as the Bible. As long as I can remember the saying “pay yourself before you pay others” has been a religious statement when dealing with money. My father was a very successful business man; he made millions by keeping his and doling out very little. While growing up he drummed that statement into me, “pay yourself first.” Ironically, he died a penniless man, because he had no choice but to pay others. He couldn’t get free medical treatment, and therefore, they took him for what he was worth.

    What I’m getting at is, the reason the top CEOs are getting away with first TARP funds is because they believe in that old saying “pay yourself first…” They will walk away with anyone’s money before they dole it out. The banks have a safeguard though, the depositor’s money is guaranteed by FDIC up to $250,000. Is there any reason, outside moral values, bank CEOs should break their religious beliefs?

    February 12, 2009 at 8:44 am |
  10. intrainbox

    For 20+ years in the UK, housing market prices, were always quoted as given by the Halifax building society, I (when living there) used to ask friends and business people why it was the H,B,S setting the prices? not the banks,/money lenders When we moved to France 12 years ago there were Estate agents, one that I recall ORPI. now over the last 10 years all the money grabbers have arrived and pushed the prices out through the ceiling. On each street corner we have estate agents getting fat. Where did Century 2000 come from. I saw this world problem arriving 20 years ago so why was it allowed to happen. It is the poor just married folks that are made to suffer for the greedy who should now be in prison.

    February 12, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  11. Corneliu Bonchut

    There isn't really much to add. I completely agree with you. Way to go, Richard Quest!

    February 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  12. Ramsi Hashash

    Richard,
    I am kind of split. In one way I fully agree with you, but like everything in live there are two sides to a story, at least two sides.

    1) Where was the oversight which the Bush government promised after Enron? I have the feeling the oversight never really took place or better said never was really implemented properly.

    2) Can we keep in mind that whenever we point the finger on others three point at ourselves? Meaning what happened with the common sense of the individual who in most cases can add 1 + 1 =2. So all the people who took on loans, mortgages etc normally know if they can afford to pay those back.

    3) Are we seriously thinking that we can blame banks or financial institutions that they give us credit cards? Where is our responsibility only to use the credit cards which we can pay back.

    Ok bonuses and benefits etc should be certainly brought down to zero for all executives who have received subsidies and money from the current emergency funds and TARP.

    Again here comes the government's responsibility for proper oversight. How come companies who received subsidies over the past decades where not put under rules and oversight and certainly this includes taking executive benefits and bonuses to zero.

    Am I wrong or does this sound like how it should be, at least certainly for future bailouts?

    regards

    February 12, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  13. Francis Dassisi

    I think that we should create an order with a name like "Corporate Comrades of Communism" CCC or Great Insign of the Red Mole.

    Each year, we would elect nominees: CEO's and the likes who through their outrageous behavior and their indecent greed have disgraced the market economy principles. All the unsung heros of socialism who proved by the sheer force of their stupidity that success and reward do not correlate, who sulk on their yacht, waiting for a real recognition of their proletarian work behond Rolex and Dom Perigon.

    All these Chief Executive something who hope in secret that their Falcon jet will one day fly them into the Grans Soir.

    All these people, each working in his peculiar way for the advancement of marxism and the demise of capitalism should be celebrated.

    What do you think of it? We would have a nice ceremony in a posh hotel decorated with pictures of Lenin, Marx and give to the chosen ones nice medals with red rubbons.

    Of course we would have to practice the Russian kiss, and that cools me a bit ;-)

    February 13, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  14. Marc

    It's easy to point fingers now. As they say in the investment world: "hindsight is 20/20". The truth is that we all let these situations deteriorate and make no stand against them as long as they work for us. We are all guilty of the same greed and ambition that we now blame the bankers for. Putting these corporate heads on the chopping block is a cowardly cop-out, even if they deserve it. It's our own day to day excesses we need to address and rectify.

    February 14, 2009 at 4:45 am |
  15. Bruno

    "There is nothing to fear but fear itself". And that is why I'm scared to death!

    Look inside and you will see some scared little person that is doing nothing about this mess just because it wants to reserve itself the option of reclaiming it own lttle personal bailout when it comes time to repay.

    There is nothing the government can do to prevent the pain from the mistakes we all did. It is time to let the castle of cards to fall and re-engineer it. Once again, we bought flaky stocks at skyhigh prices, we bought overpriced properties, we have saved nothing whatsoever, as if rainy days would never happen again.

    Look inside and you will understand why we are cowardly shut about the government putting band-aids on this financial wounds: WE ARE AFRAID. We are afraid we will need those 600 dollars checks of bailout/bribes/handouts from our royalty when our time comes.

    There is something even more pittiful than a scared man: a scared nation.

    February 14, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  16. Gabriel McKinsey

    Anger and drive for revenge are feelings shared by many these days, not just in the UK or USA, not just the millions who lost their jobs, homes, and who knows what else.

    Banks executives and politicians lost complete touch with real life, real people, and your words remind us of that quite well.

    Congrats for the great article.

    Gabriel McKinsey
    Intercambio Cursos Exterior

    February 15, 2009 at 11:29 pm |
  17. ian

    you are absolutley right ...these fat cats have been living off the fat of the land for way too long..apart from the fact that they have destroyed honest hardworking folks retirement plans this exposes them for what they really are....greedy opportunists

    February 17, 2009 at 9:21 pm |
  18. Martin

    We have the worst financial crisis for years and there are doubts if another 70bn$ bailout will help.I think the best way to get out of crisis is to introduce the negative prices.For example, let the oil price to fall to zero and even below it , so as by tanking gas we will be paid for it! So then people could drive cars again .Thereafter, when demand will rise , the price could rise again.The flow of cash to the market (esp. automobile industry) in that way , is much more better than any bailout of public money.The same would apply to stock prices .Let them fall below zero !!!.Currently the major reason for this crisis we have , is the enourmous pressure for money and lack of confidence.Such a regulation like negative pricing would immadiately ease this tension.
    We 'll see how quickly ecnomy recovers.

    February 18, 2009 at 7:23 am |
  19. Dilip Chawla

    Dear sir / madam,

    It is suprising that all the Investment Bankers at the top Investment banks did not even have a clue as to what they were investing in. I feel that the education system in the US is flawed and the way the people react is flawed. All the people jumped for these ABS deals which led to the down fall. They saw the leading IB stake a large position in them so all the others followed thinking that it is the greatest innovation in the world without actually understanding the product. No one had a clue so i feel that the US is full of shit and we all have to suffer. This is the end of US supremacy and soon they will be an underdeveloped country with all the financial problems. SEC had no clue what was happening and so many ponzi schemes and bank failures. Hope this gives you a clue or are u also clueless I wonder.

    regards


    Dilip Chawla

    February 20, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  20. John B

    these bankers have been taking money deposited by the man on the street and "lending" it or investing it in complicated, structured deals all over the world, in markets and assets they did not properly understand, as part of "Globalisation" of their operations.
    Particularly their services for HIGH NET WORTH individuals in other jurisdictions – sometimes lending money on a "NON RECOURSE" basis with little or no equity from the Borrower.
    All of thisout of sight of their home regulators.

    Its not really the home loans and the credit cards that brought this about – its the stuff that we the man in the street are NOT told about..but regulators and politicians KNOW about.
    Baks should get back to being banks and not venture capitalists.

    Normal customers these days just get the brush off when asking for a loan.

    The rich get richer and the poor..well.........................................we just pay for all the mess.

    Burn them all at the stake

    February 20, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  21. Uma in Liverpool, UK

    Oh for Heaven's sake!

    None of the US Corporate Thieves has even begun to try to apologise!

    Mr Quest was talking about HBOS and the RBS, which are here in the UK.

    Do you folk read before you reply?

    As to 'sorry' not being enough, I think the overpaid managers of all these outfits - in any country - should be bailing out the banks/corporations, which sank on their watch, from their own personal fortunes.

    Let them live on Benefits. Our government bails out those in need, after all. The upper-management (as defined by recipients of bonuses, and/or an arbitrary obscene salary) need to give it back.

    I live in what used to be a working-class suburb. Now it is a languishing-on-jobseekers'-allowance suburb. There was a problem with too much boozing, before. Now, with all the blokes out of work, the offie can't keep enough Stella in. This being that sort of community, the domestic disputes resonate through the streets of a weekend. It's lovely.

    Those few who still have jobs have seen rises in Council Tax, because nobody here pays it any more. We've all seen drops in services paid by Council Tax.

    This is unacceptable. I get very heated about those filthy rich gits, walking away from the catastrophes they created, with the wages of their sin safely in an offshore bank (not Stanford, more's the pity). The employees they laid off are losing their homes.

    I don't want vengeance. I want people who treat other people's money with wholesale indifference, and profit from it, to have all the profit, the houses, the cars, the private jets, all that flummery, taken off them, to pay for the problems they caused! If they're indicted, so much the better.

    'Sorry' is not enough!

    February 25, 2009 at 7:24 am |
  22. Mohammed Nasser

    Dear Richard Quest
    The way you covered the Davos event was remarkable. We really enjoy watching Quest means business. Keep up the hard and interesting work. Well done !

    March 17, 2009 at 8:32 pm |

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