From both sides of the Atlantic, I am hearing financial institutions, who have run their businesses into the ground, complaining about proposed restrictions being applied to their remuneration.
“So let me get this straight. You’ve killed your business?”
“Well I think it would be fairer to say that market conditions became very hostile and frankly untenable.”
“Was there an invasion from Mars?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“So you killed your business.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t quite hear that?”
“And now, you want us to prop up your business.”
“Well clearly we can’t let the savings and deposits of millions of investors …”
“But while we’re propping up your business for all those unfortunate millions of investors, you expect ‘business as usual’ when it comes to your remuneration?”
“Of course!”
“Of course? Why of course?”
“Well if salaries or bonuses drop, we won’t be able to hold onto the brightest and best minds in the industry!”
“I see. And these would be the brightest and best, nay the sagacious minds who devised and implemented the strategies that have led to the collapse of all these institutions?”
“Ah yes, but as I said, conditions became very hostile …”
“Mmmmm, very hostile. Because someone had the temerity to ask how much the houses behind the Triple-A paper were actually worth?”
“Well when you put it like that, it just sounds stupid …”
“Indeed. Well here’s my thinking. You will accept whatever remuneration we determine to be fair in the current climate …”
“But there’ll be a massive brain drain!”
“Mmmmm. To where exactly?”
“To where? Where will these supposedly bright minds go exactly in order to continue to command their current level of remuneration? Mars perhaps?”
“Well I hardly think that sarcasm is particularly helpful or constructive in the current climate …”
“No, I don’t suppose you do. Okay then, how about some flat reality? You will take whatever remuneration you are given and be grateful that you haven’t ended up in prison married to the guy with the most cigarettes. You will work ceaselessly and tirelessly to fix this mess until society sees fit to release you from your indenture. Those of you who wish to jump out of this deal can expect glowing references from us, your new employers as we precisely detail the part you played in creating this disaster.”
“But, but …”
“And just in case the brain drain does become too dramatic, I have lined up an alternative team – we’ve shaved down some Gibbons from the zoo and had them fitted for three-piece suits …”
“But, but …”
“Because they’re happy to work for a handful of bananas and let’s face it – they couldn’t be much worse that the mendacious simian clowns who dreamed up this debacle in the first place …”
“But, but …”
“Isn’t it interesting how, as a group, you have managed to overturn the age-old ‘Pay peanuts get monkeys’ adage? Well not anymore!”
“But, but …”
“That is all.”
“But, but …”
“You may go now. Next!”
I highly recommend you make the time to watch John Bird and John Fortune’s more recent take on all of this from October 2008.
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“Grotesque risk monsters” – now there’s a well-coined phrase.