Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not my fault, guv...

Vanni Treves, the new chairman of Equitable Life, was all over the airwaves this morning, following the publication of a report by Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Andrew, into the company's spectacular collapse. Mr Treves was keen to put responsibility for any further compensation firmly in the hands of the Government, citing strong criticism of financial regulators in Ms Andrew's report. He sats that Equitable Life have "paid up and discharged their responsibility to customers", and that the Government should now put their hand in their (or rather our) pocket.

I have a bit of a problem with his argument. OK, financial regulators are there to do a job, and should be criticised if they fail in their duties. But surely the primary failing was that of the management team at Equitable Life? Without their decisions, none of this would have happened. Interestingly, the current management team have dropped their court action against the previous managers who got them into the mess, since it would "serve no useful purpose".

So, the previous managers are not going to be made to pay, the current managers say they've done enough, and the Government is asked to cough up. That's you and me. The Government has no money - they can only raise it from us in taxes, or borrow it, in which case the taxpayer eventually pays the bill anyway. So should I have to pay for the actions of managers who gambled and lost? I don't think so.

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