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Monday, 21 March 2011

Defrauding The Dodgy Dictators

Interesting post from Robert Peston, yesterday, concerning financial sunlight and despotic dollars (hat tip to nobby-Lobby). He concludes:
"You can even make the case that to guard against the propensity of any British government to waste taxpayers' money or reward friends, you would probably want every page of every outsourcing or PFI contract published on the internet.

Here's the thing. There is almost always a public interest in publishing commercial agreements with governments wherever they sit on the spectrum from parliamentary elective democracy to corrupt military junta. But against that public interest comes the national economic interest, which - whether we like it or not - is occasionally served by allowing businesses to operate under a dank fog of partial disclosure."
This is of course topical, not only because 'democracy' kicking off in the Middle East has resulted in an embarrassing mini Ice Age for assets allegedly under despotic control, but also because the implementation of our very own Bribery Act has stalled.

It's a fine mess.

But is it any surprise?

The current financial crisis and its causes tell us that the official Western attitude to financial misdeeds is fiendishly inconsistent at best. Witness the irony, for example, of Hank Paulson, as US Treasury Secretary, ramming entire financial institutions together over a weekend, but warning Congress it would take months to renegotiate bank CEOs' compensation agreements. Or the timid enforcement record when it comes to the pillars of the finance world, while the theft of some source code from Goldman Sachs gets you 8 years. No wonder Bernie's bitter. It's like he got everyone else's jail time, as well as his own. But maybe that was the idea. Hang one guy out to dry and hope that's enough for the baying mob.

It makes you wonder whether all the hand-wringing over bribery and corruption was just a Western conspiracy to fool Gaddafi and his ilk into trusting us with his loot.

Ah, £€$k 'em. They knew the risks.
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