Brought to Book (The Spectator)

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“‘The financial miscreants of the last decade in Britain remain at large,’ wrote George Trefgarne in Metroboom, his 2012 Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet on ‘Lessons from Britain’s recovery in the 1930s’. ‘The political will to enforce the law in a just and unemotional manner has been lacking by the authorities in the City and in Westminster. Perhaps they are worried about what they will find.’ I commented last week on the extraordinary length of time taken to bring any kind of official reprimand against the failed bosses of HBOS — and it’s only in the past month that RBS shareholders have at last been able to file suit against that bank and four of its former directors, including Fred Goodwin, alleging that investors were misled as to the underlying strengths of RBS at the time of its April 2008 rights issue, and lost many millions as a result.

Compare the timetable of justice for Clarence Hatry, whose City empire collapsed in 1929. This was a criminal rather than civil case, Hatry having confessed to fraud, but still the contrast in the authorities’ determination to get on with it is instructive. Chris Swinson, an expert on Hatry matters, reminds me that the appointment of an investigating accountant on 18 September 1929 led to an arrest within three days, a swift Old Bailey trial, and sentencing to 14 years’ penal servitude on 24 January 1930. Brought to book in four months flat, not five years and counting.”

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Date Added: Saturday 20th April 2013