In his book How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, Francis Wheen quotes this admission from an American banker about the collapse of the financial system:- “I know there will be much talk of corruption and dishonesty. But I can testify that our trouble was not that. Rather, we were undone by our own extravagant folly. And our delusions of grandeur. The gods were waiting to destroy us and first they infected us with a peculiar and virulent form of madness.” Fair enough but this wasn’t said of last year’s crisis. Nor even of the 1987 debacle. The observation was made in 1932. So, one thing’s for sure. We haven’t seen the world’s last financial meltdown.
Talking of banks . . . I had this conversation in mine this morning.
My 12 month deposit has matured. What interest rate can you give me?
It’s fallen sharply since last year. We now offer only 1.2%.
But it says 4% on the poster on your window.
Ah, yes, But that’s a promotion and it’s restricted to new customers. As an existing customer, we can only offer you a similar rate if you make a 5 year deposit.
I can’t; I’ll need the money during that period. Maybe I should become a new customer of another bank and transfer my money there for a shorter period.
So, will you charge me for the transfer?
Yes, 0.3%. But you can always ask your new bank if it’ll reimburse you this.
And this, folks, is the sum total of the efforts made to keep me as a customer. I don’t know whether to be impressed or depressed. Either way, I remain nonplussed that Santander and BBVA can number among the top five most profitable banks in the word. Surely this isn’t achieved simply by screwing the customers daft enough to stay with them.
I mentioned recently that the EU was asking the Galician Xunta to pay back most of the money given to it to clean up the Prestige oil mess of 2002. But things have now got worse. For the Fraud Office in Brussels is demanding the return of all funds provided for public projects that have never been started or have been aborted. Or merely mis-managed. The good news, though, is that it seems they’re not really interested in pursuing anyone responsible for these misdemeanours. So, I wonder if they stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of recovering any of the funds transferred. Even though they’ve kicked off with a demand for an exhaustive account of the expenditure. Which might take some time.
Finally . . . You’ll all be familiar with the current obsession on the part of businesses to give themselves eco-credentials. Much of this being what Private Eye has called Greenwash. But I heard a real gem this morning, when a company selling TVs offered a 200 pound eco-cashback. Or ‘discount’ as we used to call it in more rapacious days. Presumably the world is now full of young men asking plaintively – “I suppose a quick eco-f**k is out of the question?”