Broken bankers

This fascinating piece in the Independent discusses the forthcoming trial of Jerome Kerviel, the alleged rogue trader who is accused of making unauthorised deals that nearly brought his employer, Societe Generale, to its knees.

What makes it interesting is not so much what Jerome Kerviel is claimed to have done, but the environment in which he was working. It appears that his defence will be that he was working against a background of endemic rule-breaking and greed on an almost imaginable scale, gambling with extraordinary sums of money. As described here it is an environment of what can only be described as testosterone-filled moral depravity.

It is interesting because it comes at a time when the fallout from the banking crisis is being visited – or about to be visited – on the public sector throughout Europe. At the same time, it appears that we are losing sight of why we are here; a world economic system laid low by speculative greed, which will be paid for by the poorest and most vulnerable who will find their services taken away, and the decent public sector employees whose behaviour is a beacon of rectitute compared with these bankers.

Easy moralising

None of this is new, of course. What I want to focus on is the moralising. We will be faced with governments of rich white men – many of whom have close personal links with the banking class – lecturing the poor and the honest on how we’ve all got to pull together, while making cuts that will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. Even in the case of Kerviel there is that hint that the smooth men from the Grandes Ecoles are dumping on the junior provincial to take the hit for their behaviour.

If we’re going to talk about broken Britain – or broken societies anywhere for that matter – shouldn’t we start with the bankers?

In all the talk about deficits it’s imperative we don’t forget why we are here, and whose system has failed.


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