Archive for August, 2011


Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of US based Goldman Sachs, has hired Reid Weingarten from the law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Weingarten is known to have represented top corporate executives who have been charged with wrongdoing, including former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers and also Enron executives…errr, including the latter’s Chief Accounting Officer.

Blankfein and his enormously powerful Goldman Sachs, were instrumental in the sub prime Ponzi bingo – see recent interpretOr posts… the origins and characteristics Of financial crises Their man Lloyd Blankcheque has keepered this elephant in the proverbial for a whopping great six years; I kid you not.

That’s an awful lot of time during which an awful lot of toxic debt was marketed to investors under rather awful false pretences, and with a Goldman Sachs seal of approval clenching the deals. Why not just Google Goldman Sachs archive of releases and investment advisories to get a fuller flavour.

Complicity, collusion and arrogance are the hallmarks of this particular ‘big(?) swinging dick’. Blankcheque even graced the pages of Vanity Fair magazine earlier this year, pretty happy about his leather and mahogany world.

Well, as we’ve announced earlier here at the interpretOr…”Guantanamo! Now open for business.” An orange jump suit would match his tan and we have unconfirmed reports that cage conditions are sub-prime. Hey, he could even have his own gurney…

Jeff Madrick, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and former economic correspondent to the New York Times, has recently published a metaanalysis of the origins, historical contexts and characteristics of financial crises.

Similarities abound, as the following quote reveals:

“Throughout history, financial crises have been generally similar to each other. An asset – land, housing, stocks, bonds and so on – rises in price, financial institutions lend to investors to buy more, and prices are driven to unsustainable levels. When the bubble bursts, investors sell assets to repay their loans, and prices fall further, often in panic.”

(Jeff Madrick, The Age of Greed, Alfred A Knopff, New York 2011)

the interpretOr also reveals that prior to the collapse of Lehman’s in 2008, Wall St had made trillions from trading sub-prime mortgages that were based on a giant ‘Ponzi’ scheme. How this was achieved was attributable to ongoing deregulation of the finance sector, tacitly permitting finance houses such as AIG and Countrywide to trade essentially unsecured mortgages to a rapacious sector – the buy-in, or incentive, was that sub-prime mortgages were subject to very high interest rates – these flimsy, high risk/high yield products were sold in bulk, providing massive, short-term and unsustainable earnings.

The ratings agencies, (see earlier interpretOr posts), S&P, Moody’s and Fitch, rated these bulk packages of very risky, partially unsecured mortgages, without elaborating on their inherent risks, weaknesses and unsustainability. European and other banks around the globe, bought into these toxic tranches and the resultant GFC was and is the outcome.

see also: the interpretOr: ratings agencies are robbing the poor, the sick and the elderly

plus…ratings agency S&P’s $2 trilliOn error and ‘race to the bottom’

also….http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/_files/Financial_Crisis/FinancialCrisisReport.pdf

the interpretOr is based on the foundations of open media, deconstructing spin and sharing perspectives. Press freedom is curtailed by many influences and forces: overt, covert, obvious, subtle. Partisan agendas presented as news; PR driven ‘news’ stories that obfuscate and omit; the invisible restrictions of the editorial nods, winks and frowns.

When media organisations are answerable to share holders and the markets, the public interest is necessarily compromised. Objectivity cannot serve two masters. When media organisations collude and offer a seeming consensus of content and treatment, there is tremendous power in their ability to shape perceptions of actual and restrict perspectives of possible.

the interpretOr has thus far been able to provide coverage across a range of significant issues without the constraints of commercial considerations. We chose to use the WordPress platform as it is free, open source and relatively user-friendly.

Many of our ‘friends & links’ around the world are using non commercial platforms too. We encourage our readers to visit these sites – perhaps the real potential of digital Renaissance lies within non commercial realms, as opposed to Facebook – its narcissism and new partnership with the odious Goldman Sachs.

Well, that’s for you to decide…

Errr, that’s $432 million per week…profit.

Just remember this enormous sum the next time you see one of Australian Mining’s soft-sell “This is our story” ads.

The real story is about earth shattering profits for sod all in royalties.

John Kampfner was a political correspondent and commentator for the BBC and Financial Times and is currently Political Editor of the New Statesman. He has exposed the origins of the link and subsequent bond between former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and ex President George W Bush. A young George W Bush spent a summer on the Perthshire (Scotland) family farm of the Gammell family. Young Willy Gammell became a childhood and lifelong friend of George W, oh…and young Willy Gammell was also one of Blair’s closest school friends at the elite Fettes College in Edinburgh.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction…

Wikipedia:

Bill Gammell was born in Edinburgh. His father was an investment banker, invited at an early age to join Edinbugh’s Ivory & Sime (which was started in the late 1800s with the formation of the British Assets Trust.) Gammell attended Edinburgh’s exclusive Fettes College where he was friends and debating partners with future British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two have remained close friends. After Fettes, Gammell attended the University of Stirling where he obtained a BA in Economics and Accountancy.

Gammell’s father invested in US oil company Bush-Overbey, owned by future US President George H. W. Bush. The two families became friends, with George W. Bush spending the summer at the Gammell’s farm in Scotland. George W. attended Bill Gammell’s wedding in Glasgow in 1983. The two have remained close friends. When George W. Bush assumed the Presidency, both he and Blair reportedly called their mutual friend Gammell to ask his opinion of the other.

Ex News of the World Royal Editor, Clive Goodman’s, revealing letter of 2007 (cc Les Hinton, then Chairman of News International). It states very clearly and lucidly that he wasn’t acting as a rogue operator, but had informed his media organisation (News) repeatedly:

Group Human Resources Director
News International
1 Virginia Street
London E198 1HR

March 2, 2007

Dear Mr Cloke,

Re: Notice of termination of employment

I refer to Les Hinton’s letter of February 5 2007 informing me of my dismissal for alleged gross misconduct.

The letter identifies the reason for the dismissal as “recent events”. I take this to mean my plea of guilty to conspiracy to intercept the voicemail messages of three employees of the royal family.

I am appealing against this decision on the following grounds:

i — The decision is perverse in that the actions leading to this criminal charge were carried out with the full knowledge and support of [BLANKED OUT]. Payment for Glen (sic) Mulcaire’s services was arranged by [BLANKED OUT].

ii — The decision is inconsistent, because [BLANKED OUT] and other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures. The prosecution counsel, the counsel for Glen (sic) Mulcaire, and the Judge at the sentencing hearing agreed that other News of the World employees were the clients for Mulcaire’s five solo substantive charges. This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor. As far as I am aware, no other member of staff has faced disciplinary action, much less dismissal.

iii — My conviction and imprisonment cannot be the real reason for my dismissal. The legal manager, Tom Crone, attended virtually every meeting of my legal team and was given full access to the Crown Prosecution Service’s evidence files. He, and other senior staff of the paper, had long advance knowledge that I would plead guilty. Despite this, the paper continued to employ me. Throughout my suspension, I was given book serialisations to write and was consulted on several occasions about royal stories they needed to check. The paper continued to employ me for a substantial part of my custodial sentence.

iv — Tom Crone and the editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me.

v — The dismissal is automatically unfair as the company failed to go through the minimum required statutory dismissal procedures.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Goodman

cc Stuart Kuttner, Managing Editor, News of the World

Les Hinton, Executive Chairman, News International Ltd

The interpretOr’s London media sources confirming that Culture, Media and Sport select committee of the House of Commons (UK) recalling James Murdoch amid revelations from jailed former News of the World Royal Editor, Clive Goodman, that “hacking widely discussed” at the paper from 2007 onwards.

“This practice (illegal phone hacking) was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference…”

Embattled Federal Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has poured scorn on the ‘link’ between day and night:

“Look, it’s based on a lie. At the end of the day, the people of this country will make up their own minds on the merits of the evidence. Let’s not forget that it’s taken guts and plenty of hard work to establish that day does not necessarily follow night. It’s morally courageous to break away from the Orwellian consensus on this important issue and to speak our own inconvenient truth…”

Mr Abbott also dismissed suggestions of a causal link between his orange tan and the increased volume of uranium mining in Australia: “Inappropriate, scare mongering, at the end of the day, it’s…

Joseph Stiglitz (see recent interpretOr post – “ratings agencies robbing the poor…”), Professor of Economics at Columbia University and Nobel Laureate, said the fiscal stimulus package delivered in Australia (by a Labour Federal government) during the global financial crisis was “among the best designed in the world.”

Better than the orange tan and screeching negativity of Abb on Botty (anag.), says the interpretOr.

Supporters of embattled Federal Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, have tonight rallied around his orange tan. Former PM’s have been quick to lend their support and John Howard has rebutted the accusation that it’s “the worst in Australian History” by reminding attendees at the State Liberal Party conference in Perth that the issue is ‘”superficial, skin deep” and that the likes of Tonly Bliar, Silvio Berlusconi and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, are “very effective, honourable statesmen, regardless of their orange hue.”

From Reporters Without Borders report re Australia (http://en.rsf.org/):

“The (Australian) government has not abandoned its dangerous plan to filter online traffic, even though this will be hard to get parliamentary approval. A harsh filtering system After a year of tests in cooperation with Australian Internet service providers, telecommunications minister Stephen Conroy said in December 2009 the government would seek parliamentary approval for mandatory filtering of “inappropriate” websites. Blocking access to a website would BE authorised not by a court but by a government agency, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The ACMA is already empowered to issue “take down” notices to Internet Service Providers under the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992.

“It maintains a “blacklist” of banned sites without transparent processes or criteria for the bans. The filtering would target websites with “refused classification” (RC) content, a category already applied to mainstream media, and would therefore apply to content unrelated to government efforts to combat child pornography, defamation or copyright, so creating a risk of overblocking.

Topics such as aborigines, abortion, anorexia, or laws about the sale of marijuana might all be filtered, along with media reports or related medical information. The government says filtering would be 100% effective – a claim disputed by experts – but Wikileaks has revealed that the blacklist includes harmless sites such as YouTube links, poker games, gay networks, Wikipedia pages and Christian sites.

Several examples of censorship have appeared. Pages of Wikileaks content on the SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) news site were reportedly blocked, leading to a demonstration in Sydney by supporters of the Pirate Party. All the country’s main ISPs (Telstra, Optus and Primus) are thought to have formally agreed to instal voluntary filters from July 2011.

The government still hopes to introduce mandatory filtering, with the support of independent and Green members of parliament, but it does not yet have such backing. An unpopular bill Journalist Ben Grubb, of The Age newspaper, said in July 2010 the government censored 90% of an official account of a meeting about censorship with ISPs and business figures in March that year before releasing it to the media. Australian law allows full access to all government documents. Claudia Hernandez, of the attorney-general’s office, said releasing an uncensored version could have set off “premature unnecessary debate.” Deputy senate opposition leader George Brandis said the episode showed how “truly Orwellian” the government had become.

Minister Conroy has made debate very difficult by calling his critics child pornography advocates. A Fairfax Media poll of 20,000 Australians in December 2009 showed 96% strongly opposed to the bill. Internet firms, including Google and Yahoo, are against the measure and the U.S. government said in March 2010 it was concerned about the proposal, noting the importance of freedom of expression. Hundreds of Australian websites protested against the bill in a national “Internet Blackout” day in January 2010.”

(Reporters Without Bordershttp://en.rsf.org/)

“Early in 1982, ten months after he had taken over The Times and The Sunday TimesRupert Murdoch went to see the Prime  Minister, Mrs Thatcher. They shared a problem: it was me. I was editor of The Times and Murdoch’s difficulty was how to dispose of me.”

 ‘Good Times, Bad Times’, Harold Evans (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, 1983)

Fast forward 30 years…it might be Rupert’s turn.

Harold Evans was a brave and conscientious editor of The Sunday Times when it was a great, compelling and fearless Fleet Street newspaper. Among his achievements are the creation and dynamic development of their investigative team, Insight. Using energy and talent on behalf of children stricken by latent effects of the toxic Thalidomide drug – a sleeping pill that pregnant mothers had used before the children were born, resulting in limbless babies and many hundreds with chronic deformities – the Insight Team exposed and challenged the pitiful compensation that families involved had received. It also sought to inform readers of the objective, evidence based realities of how the pharmaceutical company that manufactured and distributed the Thalidomide drug reacted to the terrible and delayed reaction of their monstrous and widely used pill. Within the scope of their investigation was intense examination and analysis of the legal machinations on this intergenerational disaster – the position of the Courts and the paucity of the advocacy on behalf of the prescribed poison’s victims. Evans and his staff were driven by the magnitude of their sense of professionalism and responsibility to society. They were acting solely in the public good and in the unadulterated pursuit of justice and recompense for suffering children and parents.

Fast forward 30 years and we’re at another turning point. The demise of The News of The World and the circumstances of its destruction are a continuation of the process that Murdoch set in motion back in ’81 with his acquisition of the Times broadsheets and subsequent dismissal of Harold Evans. That such towering newspapers succumbed to substantially diminished credibility, authenticity and authority was an incremental, and at times subtle, process. Murdoch had an agenda of intense engagement and promotion of both Thatcher in the UK and ‘showbiz Ron’ in the US, and Evans did not fit this mould, this new realpolitik. Would Evans have allowed the Insight Team to become cheerleaders for Milton Friedman and run away, unchecked corporate power? I think not.

Would Harold Evans have allowed The Sunday Times to obfuscate and mislead over Iran Contra and ignore the systematic destruction of the Roosevelt and Beveridge initiated social reforms in public health and education – defining elements of the social contract of the post WW2 era? Well, ask the victims of Thalidomide.

At one end of the chronology is analysis, context and enquiry; at the other…propaganda, churnalism and the stench of sleaze.

Hope versus fear. We deserve the former.

ps. the interpretOr encourages visitors to this site to share their perspectives on this timely and crucial subject. Please feel free to comment away

we also wish to advise that we have a mobile compatible app that can be accessed through Android and also iPhone by simply selecting mobile site from our home page view options – no separate app download required…phew)

the interpretOr wishes to share perspectives on press freedom and to get the ball rolling, here’s Barack Obama on World Press Freedom Day

“In every corner of the globe, there are journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba to Eritrea…I lend my voice of support and admiration to all those men and women of the press who labour to expose truth and enhance accountability around the world.

In so doing, I recall the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right: and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

(Barack Obama, May 2009)

the interpretOr would like to add that Obama should remember these remarks before embarking upon any extradition of Julian Assange – surely Wikileaks was motivated by a desire to “expose truth and enhance accountability around the world” too.

the interpretOr encourages visitors to this site to share their perspectives on this timely and crucial subject. 

Please feel free to comment away…we also wish to advise that we have a mobile compatible app that can be accessed through Android and also iPhone.

The setting is chilling. London is burning, the Greeks are looking for friends and Berlusconi has finally screwed everything in Italy. Meanwhile at the tea party,  the Mad Hatters cheer the fall of America’s President and the impoverishment of her people. In this tottering world precariously held above the flood of despair by the great plate of China, Mr Rabbit, a cousin of the Mad March Hare, returns to Canberra to plot the demise of Ms Carrot Top. Will Mr Rabbit be satisfied with a moderate level of carnage or will he wreak havoc on the great warren Downunder?

Mr Rabbit has taken time out to consult with the ferrets from the Tea Party on how a complete extinction might be carried out. Will he be thwarted by the Ugly Duckling who is trying hard to boost morale and steer Downunder through this crisis? Or will Tony 1080 poison the earth and take us back to the Dark Ages? Watch this space for updates.

Following the meeting between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and News limited editors and directors there has been a remarkable change in the tone of “The Australian”. Previous editions have relentlessly painted the PM as a train wreck driving Australia into certain calamity. This weekend edition of the 6th of August has transformed her into the very picture of a serenely wise leader totally in control of the country as described by Mathew Franklin.

“Ms Gillard exuded optimism as she spoke of focusing on an agenda aimed at spreading opportunity and addressing people’s sense of uneasiness about the patchwork economy”.

A large glamour photograph was titled “A subtle sartorial shift shows a sleekly confident Julia Gillard”

Now what magical words were spoken to CEO John Hartigan that bought about his metamorphis from the aggressive flesh eating maggot to the gentle butterfly wanting to fly with Lepidoptera Gillardis to bring beauty and colour into the world? Could those transformative words have been “media inquiry”?
Such transformations do not happen without some evolutionary payback, so what was the price paid by our PM? Only the editors, executives and the flies on the wall can know for sure what price the transaction required. To outside observers the only thing of value is the canning of the media inquiry. Of course, now that the owner of News Limited has declared himself to be family Murdochus Americanus his territorial spread is limited in this country by laws which previously seem to have been cravenly ignored by local herd leaders who fearful of retribution have looked in another direction. It would be a disaster for the family Murdochus if an inquiry forced the local herd leaders to face up to their responsibility to the Family Australis and drive out alien invader.

the interpretOr has given focus to the ratings agency issue because they have massive influence that impacts directly on any notion or reality of the social good.

The world was turned into an enormous market by the forces of Reagan, Thatcher and their successors, and a continuum was born – Murdoch and other major media players provided a fanfare for the idiotic falsehood of Big government BAD…’free’market GOOD’, and the ratings agencies were pivotal to this new realpolitik and to this day, still wield corrosive power.

Ratings agencies were  at the dark heart of the subprime fiasco that resulted in the 2008 collapse of Lehmann Brothers and the subsequent global financial meltdown. Why this should still be a concern to those of us with no particular interest in the minutiae of economics, is that this corrupt, venal complicity (ie. awarding worthless financial products and instruments credit worthiness) has had an enormous impact on the ability of governments around the world to provide for the sick, the poor and the elderly.

Nobel winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz (prof. of Economics @ Columbia University), and Paul Krugman (professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University) have analysed the economic data behind the idea that ‘Big Government’ was responsible for down turns, recessions and associated perceptions that only the Right can lay claim to financial responsibility and concluded independently and unanimously that there is absolutely no data to support these beliefs. 

In other words, there is no evidence that economic decline or instability is caused by social welfare. The real villain of the piece is the systematic deregulation of the finance sector and the activities of its ‘big swinging dicks’, namely S&P, Moody’s and Fitch.

(see more perspectives at:    www.josephstiglitz.com/ and…http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/ )

ps. I remember as a kid in England that the first thing Thatcher did upon becoming Prime Minister was to abolish free school milk. I’m obviously not over     that one. Anyway, truth is often stranger than fiction.

Wow, that’s sooo reassuring…perhaps ‘News’ missed the US Senate report cited by the interpretOr…then again, maybe they didn’t…

Is the interpretOr alone in wondering, why the silence in Oz and elsewhere re the ratings agencies’ inherent conflict of interest and their culpability re the sovereign debt crisis engulfing Europe?

This morning’s Wall St Journal (Murdoch owned)  had plenty of splashes on impending market losses, and debate over S&P’s downgrading of US credit rating, but not a murmur re the elephant, (by now crapping all over the shop), in the room – they are paid BLOODY ENORMOUS COMMISSIONS BY THE PRODUCERS of THE PRODUCTS THAT THEY RATE!

Mork calling Orson, come in please Orson, Mork calling Orson…?

“All the corruption exposed in England – payoffs, dirty cops, hush-money settlements – is also happening here” (Rolling Stone, Aug 2011)

   http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/rupert-murdochs-american-scandals-20110803

The Obama administration attacked the credibility of the analysis underlying Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the United States’ top credit rating on Friday, saying it had found a $2 trillion error. (Reuters)

The interpretOr has accessed an April 2011 US Senate report that specifies a host of factors responsible for the inaccurate credit ratings issued by Moody’s and S&P:

‘One significant cause was the inherent conflict of interest arising from the system used to pay for credit ratings. Credit rating agencies were paid by the Wall Street firms that sought their ratings and profited from the financial products being rated. Under this “issuer pays” model, the rating agencies were dependent upon those Wall Street firms to bring them business, and were vulnerable to threats that the firms would take their business elsewhere if they did not get the ratings they wanted.’

The rating agencies weakened their standards as each competed to provide the most favorable rating to win business and greater market share. The result was a race to the bottom.

source:

United States Senate PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Carl Levin, Chairman Tom Coburn, Ranking Minority Member

WALL STREET AND THE FINANCIAL CRISIS:

Anatomy of a Financial Collapse

MAJORITY AND MINORITY STAFF REPORT

PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS

UNITED STATES SENATE

April 13, 2011

http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/_files/Financial_Crisis/FinancialCrisisReport.pdf

Guardian, BBC & Reuters reporting that Italian Police have raided Milan offices of ratings agencies Moody’s and also Standard & Poor’s…accountability, anyone?

…Guantanamo: “nOw open for business” 

BBC World Service correspondent in New York, prefacing his piece on plunging markets with a thumbnail of the ratings agencies scene – there are only 3 major players (Standard & Poor’s – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch) and they rate the world’s bonds and derivatives – but omitting an essential piece of information:

Listeners were not told that these same ratings agencies derive their primary, if not sole revenue stream, from the commission that they are paid by the merchant banks and governments that are issuing the bonds that they, the ratings agencies, rate.

Err, herein lies an inherent contradiction – a whopping great, objective conflict of interest. In late 2010, a Eurobond dealer broke away from the conformist consensus of his peers and spoke out against the ratings agencies…

This lone voice had made it onto the BBC World Service and clearly stated that the ratings that these agencies had given toxic Greek, Spanish and Irish sovereign debt were incorrect. He ‘called’ these government bonds as sub-junk trash. He derided the ratings as being as fetid as the subprime ‘miscalculations’ of 2008 and earlier.

serco – latest news dashboard.

“The distaste at the phone hacking scandal in Britain is more an aesthetic and news judgment than an ethical one”

  (The Australian, 02 Aug 2011)

The distaste in Britain is better described as outright repulsion. The Australian takes a contemptuous view of the sense and sensibilities of the UK public.

  • There has long been ‘distaste’ for the way in which News tabloids and broadsheets in the UK played a pivotal role in promoting and selling Gulf War II. Their role is even explicitly acknowledged in leaked USAF papers re ‘Strategic Influence, Perception Management & Psych Ops in Gulf II’ (2003).
  • There has long been ‘distaste’ in the UK for the way in which Murdoch formed an unholy alliance with Margaret Thatcher – echoes of elements of the interpretOr’s coverage of the current scandal (see ‘Cameron’s Christmas Lunch‘) as Rupert joined Maggie for successive Christmas stays at PM retreat, Chequers.
  • There has long been ‘distaste’ for the systematic dumbing down and overt politicisation of the Times and Sunday Times
  • There has long been ‘distaste’ in the UK for the demonisation of miners and steel workers that dared to stand up for themselves and their communities
  • There has long been ‘distaste’ for successive generations of the Murdoch family smearing the role and standing of the BBC

There is now also outright repulsion over deceit, arrogance and chicanery.

The BBC World Service, though current, considered and topical, still had a slight aura of antiquity for Keith. The locations of bureaux a poignant reminder of its scope across this earth: Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing to Delhi and west across the old Silk Road, back to Bush House, London – an image formed in Keith’s mind’s eye of RKO radio pylons bleeping into monochrome clouds and a slight cosmic haze. No wonder radio has been described as “the theatre of the mind.” Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, the Archers…The King’s Speech. Did video really kill the radio star? mused Keith.

The first report he caught was from a BBC correspondent in New York, prefacing his interview with a thumbnail of the ratings agencies scene – there are only 3 major players (Standard & Poor – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch) and they rate the world’s bonds and derivatives – but omitting an essential piece of information:

Listeners were not told that these same ratings agencies derive their primary, if not sole revenue stream, from the commission that they are paid by the merchant banks and governments that are issuing the bonds that they, the ratings agencies, rate.

Err, herein lies an inherent contradiction – a whopping great, objective conflict of interest. “Bloody great elephant in the proverbial!” Keith recalled that in late 2010, a Eurobond dealer broke away from the conformist consensus of his peers and spoke out against the ratings agencies. This lone voice had made it onto the BBC World Service and clearly stated that the ratings that these agencies had given toxic Greek, Spanish and Irish sovereign debt were incorrect. He ‘called’ these government bonds as sub-junk trash. He derided the ratings as being as fetid as the subprime ‘miscalculations’ of 2008 and earlier.

Mr Gray’s thoughts then drifted momentarily to Dumsfeld, Harridan et al…the Melbourne conference…self raising or plain?…only to be jolted back to the radio by the announcement of the next item on the air, an interview with Norman Boyd, CEO of The Corrections Corporation, (FTSE: CorrectCorp). He visualised an orange-tanned, bouffanted grinning suit, arm around the shoulder of orange-tanned ‘Sir Cliff’ on the Barbados plantation, with orange-tanned Bliar and the obsequious (and orange-tanned) Mandelson. Boyd en vacances…and not too far away from Cuba…

Comment on CorrectCorp’s stellar performance on the London markets and the increasingly ubiquitous Boyd segwayed into the first question:

“Norman Boyd, welcome to Hard Cash…Could you describe for our listeners the relationship between your spiritual foundations – your Evangelism – and your sense of duty to shareho…”

The interpretOr’s London media contacts have confirmed that Serco’s CEO, Chris Hyman, is an evangelical Christian with a penchant for racing Ferraris, and received a 2010 pay package of more than £5 million.

The Serco corporate strap line is “Bringing service to life.”

Errr, for Mr Hyman, make that self service…

(wonder what Keith Gray thinks about all this?)

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