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Letters: Bankers, greed and the humbling of Sir Fred

As a tactic, harrying Stephen Hester until he waived his bonus and stripping Fred Goodwin of his knighthood is akin to throwing an unfavoured aristo to the mob while the rest of the court nips out the back door of the palace with the contents of the royal treasury (A reputation shredded: Sir Fred loses his knighthood, 1 February).

Hester is, by most people’s reckoning, overpaid and Goodwin was reckless. But their cases are small potatoes. We have been offered a couple of scapegoats to distract from the fact that the government has backed away from proper regulation of the banks, tougher rules to stop a cosy mutual remuneration club operating among top executives, and action to narrow the pay gap.

We’ve paid as a nation to drag our banks back from the abyss. Even those that refused public funds were saved from the contagion that surely would have followed had no action been taken. We should demand responsible retail banking, industrial banks that forge long-term partnerships with businesses, and ringfenced “investment” banks where the foolish and the greedy can gamble with exotic pieces of paper.

The honours system was disreputable long before Goodwin got an honour – let’s not forget Ceausescu and Mugabe. Indeed, plain old Fred did the establishment a final favour even as his gong was torn from him – by providing cover for the equally undeserving. We should not allow ourselves to be bought off so cheap.
Jonathan Kent
Wadhurst, East Sussex

• Our honours system is archaic, but there is a civic role for an honours system. What demeans the system further is the extrajudicial removal of honours on the recommendation of officials under pressure from hysterical politicians. If Goodwin’s honour is to be removed because of the banking crash, no politician or journalist of the current generation who either encouraged the property bubble or sat idly by should get any honours from this day onward.

Goodwin was following a commercial agenda, albeit badly. What is to happen to Howard Davies or anyone else in regulation who allowed regulators to be timid and “captured”? This is a bad decision, encouraged by base politics and mob rule. Goodwin should have been left to the sufficient damnation that had come his way.
David Stockley
Reigate, Surrey

• Doesn’t Digby Jones realise that the “faint whiff of the lynch mob” he refers to with haughty disdain is to be detected all too readily in the corporate realm he represents (Report, 1 February)?

Blood on the carpet after boardroom coups – often driven by personal ambition rather than shareholder value? Check. Marginalising and hounding those who have the audacity to express reservations about the frequently flawed judgment of senior executives? Check. Whimsical power-plays dressed up as corporate strategy? Check. Yes, all of these entirely reprehensible practices were the hallmark of RBS under Goodwin’s leadership. So, while it’s correct to say we should address systemic problems instead of pillorying individuals, that Jones and other business leaders can even attempt to claim the moral high ground is risible.
Colin Montgomery

• Now that Fred Goodwin has been stripped of his knighthood by the forfeiture committee, I hope, as I advocated last year (Letters, 12 February 2011), they will also consider tax exiles and non-domiciles?  

If we are all in this together, as in any other mature democracy, all citizens must be equally liable before the taxman: we can no longer afford to subsidise any of the Green family of Monaco.Currently many low-paid workers in the Arcadia Group, which they own via this tax haven, have their wages supported by housing benefits, working tax credits and other subsidies. Incidentally, last summer Monaco closed its stamp duty loophole to stem its loss of revenue (Law No 1381 of 29 June 2011) and in effect fined anybody owning an apartment as shares registered in another tax haven 1% for the privilege.
David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• Although it is pleasing to see someone associated with the bank failure punished, Fred Goodwin has escaped justice in the modern sense. Where is our supreme court, our mother of parliaments, our established human rights legislation? Instead, a grey old cabal (probably knights sitting at a round table) metes out medieval skulduggery, and strips the errant rogue of a bauble. Beware underperforming Olympic athletes: Traitors’ Gate and the Tower of London await you. Welcome to modern democratic Britain!
Ian McKenzie

• He may no longer be a “Sir”, but the former head of RBS, Fred Goodwin (52), will continue to collect an annual pension from his time in the post of £342,000 a year. Never mind stripping him of his knighthood – take his money!
Sasha Simic

• Mr Goodwin demonstrates his lack of judgment, or naivety, by not giving a large donation to, or help raise funds for, a political party. At least one convicted criminal, with an even higher honour but a party fundraiser, has not lost his.
David Selby
Winchester, Hampshire

• In 1968 I was awarded a silver Blue Peter badge. Since then I have drunk alcohol, sworn and ridden my bicycle on the pavement on a number of occasions. Should I hand my badge back now before it is removed by the honours forfeiture committee?
Andrew Colley
Halstead, Essex

• Fred Goodwin is stripped of his knighthood for bringing about the collapse of RBS, and the deal that is cited as the straw that broke the camel’s back was “the kamikaze acquisition of ABN Amro”. But it is rarely mentioned that it was only by good fortune that it was not Barclays that won that poisoned chalice.

Barclays withdrew from the bid battle only after it failed to win the backing of shareholders controlling 80% of ABN’s shares, and its chief executive John Varley said at the time that he was “disappointed” by the outcome but upbeat about the company’s future. Then, when the downturn hit, and without the millstone that it would have been burdened with had it won the takeover battle, Barclays was able to boast that it did not need any government support. Lucky for Barclays, but unlucky for RBS.
Peter Franklin
Epping, Essex

• At the same time that Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood because of his role in the banking crisis, a new grassroots campaign, Move Your Money, has been launched to encourage everyday people to change the way the banking system works.

We’re hoping that people across the country will take this chance to move their money to more local and fair banks – co-operative and mutual banks, building societies and credit unions.
Ed Mayo
Secretary general, Co-operatives UK © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds