In March I related a story about the unduly deferential meeting protocol at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, and hoped it was more welcoming of critical thought than the rule suggested. However, three recent reports have confirmed the worst.
Not only were the terms of reference for those reports criticised for being too narrow and avoiding contentious issues. But, according to the FT, Bill Winters also found a "tendency [among less senior staff] to filter recommendations in such a way as to maximise the likelihood that senior staff will find the recommendation palatable." And David Stockton "criticised the bank for its opacity and a culture that discourages independent thought."
Naturally, I detect a certain lack of enthusiasm in the Governors' response:
“We welcome these three Reviews. The Reviewers have given us an independent perspective on some of the key challenges the Bank has faced in responding to the financial crisis and have given us a great many ideas to consider that could improve the Bank’s performance. We are starting programmes of work to evaluate the recommendations and to plan changes. We will report regularly to Court."At least they aren't alone. The IMF suffered from 'groupthink' for years, and auditors have been struggling to understand the meaning of 'scepticism'.
Come to think of it, Auntie seems to suffer from the same maladies, along with most of Britain's institutions.
In fact "maladies" is strangely apt to describe two ailing institutions called 'Auntie' and the 'Old Lady'. It also sheds new light on the reason for the apostrophe in m'lady…