Friday, February 20, 2009

The Mystery of the Mysterious Golden Circle

The mystery being that no-one can tell me what these guys did wrong.

Seán Quinn ages ago buys options on a load of shares in Anglo Irish bank (I think that's what he did -- I don't fully understand this). The value drops dramatically so Quinn can't afford to go in so the shares look to go to the market which could then sink the bank. So the boys and girls in the bank decide to go to a bunch (ten or more) of prominent business people -- our golden circle! -- to take the options. Here's where it gets seriously dodgy... the bank itself would put up the finance for these people to buy the shares, including a guarantee that if the value dropped even further, the bank would cover the shortfall.

Now, after the opposition brought this to light, all the focus is on naming the investors and bringing them to justice if they did anything wrong.

If they did anything wrong? What about the bank? They initiated this. What about the Financial Regulator? They let this go ahead. As did Cowen, who was informed of some of this while he was Minister of Finance.

So the Government and the Regulator dropped the ball and the bank started the ball rolling in the first place (messy analogy, I know). But all the media is fixated on is a red-herring, a witch-hunt for ten or more business people who were offered a good deal and took it. Sure there are questions to be asked -- eg. did these investors have access to information that was kept from other shareholders? But there are bigger fish to fry.

And the Opposition are losing sight of this too. They too are putting too much emphasis on what may or may not be the wrongdoing of a chosen few, while ignoring the (less sensational, I'll admit) sloppy handling of the whole financial sector by the people supposedly in charge.

And now, my own party leader is banging the pulpit and threatening that anyone found of illegal financial dealings will be brought to justice.

That's great Minister Gormley, but what of incompetence of the Government and the Regulator? I know stupidity and laziness is not illegal (maybe it should be) but shoudn't we be saving more of our bile and dedication for justice for the people who we know for certain screwed up? Shouldn't we be looking more closely at the smart alecs in the bank who let this happen? (By that, I don't mean this current deal with Quinn's old shares but the earlier reckless business of giving out credit like it was water.) Should we not be asking why in the name of god the Financial Regulator accepted legal advice on this deal from the bank itself!

But the Government are cute. They are starting back on an old FF trick -- how to simultaneously be in Government and Opposition. They know that if they too start to hound this golden circle (or at least look to be hunting them) they can slowly align themselves with the people and join the ever-growing ranks of the victimised. By creating a mystical golden circle who all sit in some cigar-smoke filled room while they laugh at the one-up they got on the average John and Mary, they can hopefully divert all public anger here and thus away from themselves. And if they do come up with a way to name these people (or convince them to come out) the country can cheer a victory of the little man against big business and we'll all feel a little less indignant.

Come on men and women of Ireland. Wake up. The (get ready for a whopper here) Golden Circle should be renamed the Golden Wonders -- for they truly are small potatoes.