I went to the launch of the True Fair Campaign launched by Alan and Gina Miller this morning. Check it out on www.trueandfaircampaign.co. It's a very good idea and I hope the government (all sides, all colours) puts their voice behind it. To cut to the chase, they want the City to be more transparent and trustworthy. Whether these two qualities are mutually exclusive I am not sure although my feeling is that if the City becomes more transparent, the public will quickly get to know they are the bunch of sanctimonious, self satisfied crooks we have suspected them being all along.
There were MPs, hedge funders, a professor from the LSE, and various other experts who spoke sagely about what needs to be done to make the City fair and true - transparent and trustworthy.
They talked of moral capitalism, getting the investment institutions to be open and clear about their costs and fees, but as I sat there I feel it's going to be a bit like trying to teach a psychopath empathy. City people do not understand the concept of truth or fairness. Their definitions are different. They live and breathe liar's poker remember. What's more, they know we don't trust them and they don't care that we don't trust them, but because they've been able to get away with it for so long, we've somehow established this level of dishonesty, smoke and mirrors as the norm. Their behaviour has become acceptable, that is until of course, we were brought into global recession by them breaking the market, although the delusional ones amongst them will dispute that.
But why should they change? Why do they need to change when their business is not suffering (there is a cartel of companies operating - so little competition - so all fees are set and agreed amongst each of them) If their business suffers as a result of not being transparent they would do it, but they don't need to, because it's not suffering - or not suffering because of lack of transparency. And yes, the public may believe the city to be dishonest but they don't care about that either, so although one journalist gamely suggested the city should be 'shamed' into being more transparent, I don't believe they understand the concept of 'shame'. They live in a bubble of self congratulatory validation which even overshadows that of show business. The City is a 'no-show' business. And when they fail, it's everyone else's fault and everyone else is to blame and pay. That's how a psychopath feels, or a narcissist - I'm never sure which one. They don't want anyone to know what they're doing or understand their business (including the government) - that's why we got into this mess in the first place.
An MP who was there, an ex hedge funder, told me the thing the City should do is to get across to the public that the work they do creates industry, creates job, creates work, does a lot of good. But then he worked in a different 'City'. A partner for a company, when his business made money, the company shared the profits, when it lost money, he would wake up in cold sweats at three in the morning realising he could, would and should lose everything. That is genuine risk, that is how business works and when it pays off, the rewards are well deserved. I feel transparency will only show in more detail how much these people are being rewarded for failing, and they know it and that's why they don't want to do it.
Gina and Alan know it too and I applaud them. By merely launching this initiative, they are throwing down the gauntlet - sign up - or you're a liar, not to be trusted and are over charging. The smoke is already starting to clear. The mirrors are getting shattered. The reality of the City is one that cannot be trusted. The past decade has shown this already.