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April 10, 2013

Financial sins

“Sir James Crosby, former chief executive of the failed bank HBOS, has done the honourable thing in surrendering his knighthood and part of his generous £580,000 annual pension. As last week’s damning parliamentary report on the bank’s collapse made clear, he was “the architect of the strategy that set the course for disaster”.

Five years on, public outrage over the greed and excess that helped bring down some of Britain’s biggest banks has not faded. The widespread sense of injustice has been stoked by revelations of mismanagement, incompetence or even fraud, as in the Libor rate- rigging affair. Few of those responsible have been held to account. More have walked away with generous pecuniary rewards despite their manifest failures and the subsequent decision to bail out the banks with taxpayers’ money.

The bankers have much to answer for, but so have the government and regulators. In contrast to the US, Britain was slow to investigate what went wrong. There are also grounds to criticise the manner in which the bank bailouts were structured. The government might have done more to claw back the outsized rewards amassed by executives who presided over their overstretched institutions. The reality, however, was that such pension arrangements for executives were very much secondary to the urgent need to stave off a collapse of the British banking system.”

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Read full Financial Times editorial here

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