Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
File:Siege perilleux galaad.jpg
December 2012 saw a former chief of the Financial Services Authority (Hector Sants) and December 2013 a former deputy governor of the Bank of England (Paul Tucker) knighted. Men whose responsibilities included regulating the banks during the banking crash. They joined the array of lords and knights in the well padded seats of the City of London's financial district.

Every bank, insurance company and investment firm covets a noble or two to adorn its board. What could possibly go wrong if a peer of the realm is at the helm?

It is not just financial services. Lords and ladies, knights and dames grace the boards and regulators of electricity, transport, education, health, and just about every major commercial endeavour. Judge them not by their fruits, but by their titles.

To recognise these valiant men and women who fearlessly take responsibility for our nation's well being, ensuring the good and chivalrous behaviour of their companies and those they regulate. In praise of these goodly citizens who use their bodies, minds and reputations as buttresses against all the unseemly pillaging and ripping-off, we give you an excerpt from Monty Python's tale of Camelot:

Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away, away!
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: ,
Ripped-off Britons: Internal struggles
We at Ripped-Off Britons have kept our focus on those who rip off within the law. The targets of our blog posts and cartoons are as likely to be seen glowing in the company of princes and bishops as sweating in a commons committee or court room. 

The role call of lords and knights passing through Parliament's Grimond Room in 2012 sounds like a list of nobles sitting at the Round Table in King Arthur's Camelot. Actually they were perched on the naughty seats attesting to the disgrace of the Banking industry in front of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. The hearings may have been uncomfortable for those gallant and noble men with accusations of being "delusional" and "dishonest" ringing in their ears. But after three hours of wriggling and wiggling in the Grimond Room they were driven in a car paid for by the proceeds of their dodgy activities back to a comfortable home paid for by some more of the proceeds of their dodgy activities, to have a glass of single malt paid for by...(you get the general idea).

Of course we should be resolute in the campaign against rip-offs and rippers-off. It is for us campaigners, those who draw and write and those who tweet and retweet, to point out their frauds and negligences. But what will actually stem the tide of scams and injustices is the resolution of the perpetrators themselves. They are proud spirits who, like Sir Thomas More's devil, cannot abide to be mocked and jeered. But they have almost impenetrably thick skins. In the end, their resolve must come from within.

So we invite suggestions for a New Year's Resolution for those who perpetrate and have the power to stop some of the rip-offs:

Contributions from some of our guest authors in 2012 can be read here:
Email further contributions to

Sunday, December 23, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , ,

By Richard Murphy

Adviser to the Tax Justice Network and the TUC on taxation and economic issues. He is also the director of Tax Research LLP.

Can I shock the world and say what I’d really like someone to do in the New Year has something to do with tax?

I believe in tax. I think it’s the price we pay for living in a decent, democratic, wealth generating and wealth sharing democracy. I don’t think we’d have any of those things without a strong tax system. So I don’t like tax cheats. 

They abuse the system, undermine democracy, increase inequality and leave decent people to pick up the bill – except that their capacity to do so is now at its limit.

So what would I like someone to do? I’d like a General Anti-Tax Avoidance Principle to be included in UK law. Not the nonsensical apology of a general anti-abuse rule that the government is proposing but something like the Bill Michael Meacher put to the House of Commons in September this year.  

Now, I am biased: I wrote this Bill. But it would stop tax avoidance in its tracks, make using tax havens hard, let H M Revenue & Customs tackle companies like Google and rebalance the tax equation in favour of the honest and the poor.

It could be done. That’s why I have picked this option of the many available to me. The Bill is still waiting for its second reading in the Commons. The option of passing it is available. 

It’s my New Year’s wish that it reaches the statute book.

Sunday, December 23, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , ,

By Richard Hebditch, 
Campaigns Director, 
Campaign for Better Transport.

The one New Year's resolution Campaign for Better Transport would like is for Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, to resolve that 2013's rail fare rises will be the last to be set above inflation.

The rises on 2 January 2013 are the tenth anniversary of above inflation fare rises. Increasing them by one per cent above inflation year after year has meant that they are now outstripping wage increases by ever increasing amounts. For many on low to middle incomes, it simply means that they can no longer afford to travel to work in London or other city centres.

The Government have promised to end such rises but they have set no target date to do so. A New Year's resolution to end above inflation rises once and for all would be a late Christmas gift that millions of rail passengers would welcome.

If you want to help encourage Mr McLoughlin's choice of New Year resolution, then please sign our 

Sunday, December 23, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , ,

By Honestly Banking, the undercover banker

Looking back over 2012, we've seen the world of banking plumb new depths. Libor rigging, Interest Rate Swap scandals, money laundering to name just a few. 

For 2013 we would like bankers to resolve to simply take personal responsibility to do the right thing. This means having the moral courage to speak out and blow the whistle when something is wrong. To put customers first and stop the greed. We should have the moral courage to welcome legislators giving regulators teeth that bite. 

It is staggering that 2012 has brought many clear cases of corporate misdemeanour yet there have been hardly any individuals paying the price. A substantial fine is just a cost of doing business and usually only represents a fraction of the profits made. Those that have permitted or profited from the crime just turn up for work again the next day!

Those who believe that any behaviour is acceptable in pursuit of profit must learn that they will and must be called to account for their actions. If they have done wrong, the price must be paid - personally.

In 2013 have moral courage to stand up for what is right.

Sunday, December 23, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , ,
Ripped-off Britons overpaid CEOBy Deborah Hargreaves, Founding Director of the High Pay Centre

Highly paid bosses' New Year's resolution should be to give up their bonuses and award their workforce a pay rise instead. 

A chief executive of a big company earns on average £4.8 million or 185 times average wages, and some bankers are on even more than that. Surely, they can't spend all that?

It's about time the rest of us got a pay rise. While top bosses have seen their pay  treble in the past 10 years, average earnings have increased by 51 per cent -  barely keeping up with price rises which are up 45 per cent. If the minimum wage had risen as fast as executive pay, it would now be £19 instead of £6.19.

Our business leaders are very competitive people. But could we turn their boast around? Let's make it not about "mine is bigger than yours", but "I've given up more than you!" Let's see them contributing a bit to the general good by foregoing a couple of million and turning that into a top-up for the lowest paid.

In the long run it would help their businesses by putting a bit of spending power into the pockets of those who are likely to spend it. It would help boost demand for their goods and get the economy off the ground again.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Fee and KJ wonder what'll happen next...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Queen Asks Bank Bosses About Financial Crisis
During a visit to the Bank of England, the Queen asked why nobody saw the financial crisis coming. She was told that everyone thought that markets worked efficiently, that economies were stable, and nobody realised how interconnected the system was. The Queen suggested the regulator "didn't have any teeth." SKY NEWS
("Teeth? It didn't have any b...." added the Duke of Edinburgh, in that way that he does.)

Britain's biggest TV and net firms used Luxembourg loophole to avoid £80m in tax
Virgin Media, Sky and Talk Talk set up companies in Luxembourg to benefit from VAT rates as low as 3%. The three firms all claimed that because their businesses had UK presence, customers were effectively importing from Luxembourg. All three companies are in the process of moving their operations to the UK, implying they will pay this tax in future. But they have no plans to repay the £80m. DAILY MAIL
(Surprisingly, this item didn't make it into the news feeds of Virgin, Sky or Talk Talk. But several stories of cats falling into bath tubs did.)

300,000 more homes will be in fuel poverty this Christmas
More families are facing a choice between 'heating or eating'. A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel for adequate heating. Rising prices, stagnant wages and welfare cuts are responsible for the rise. INDEPENDENT
(“More lefty rubbish. In this globalised world of interconnected economies, it’s unrealistic to expect the UK government to have known that it gets cold in the winter,” said one minister.)

Six-fold rise in people relying on food handouts, including those in work
Cameron challenged by Miliband on poverty and rise in use of food banks. In response, Cameron said keeping inflation down, including wages, was essential. He also praised the role of volunteers who helped the poor, explaining they were "part of what I call the big society". GUARDIAN
(NEWS LATEST: Six-fold rise in sales of dartboards with Cameron's face on it.)

Two ex-Financial Services Authority supremos get jobs at banks
Hector Sants, former boss of the bank regulator, the FSA, has been given a new top job to improve Barclay's reputation. Meanwhile, Lloyds has announced the hire of the FSA's general counsel Andrew Whittaker. Both executives were running the FSA when it failed to spot and stop the banking system from collapsing. BBC NEWS + THE LAWYER
(And in other news: Inspector Clouseau is hired by the International Federation of Jewel Thieves as its Global Director of Compliance.)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
But Cameron is well prepared...

Monday, 17 December 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
Banks have been caught laundering money, and rigging Libor and energy markets. These are the acts of criminals, not just a matter of "mis-selling" to us consumers. So will our leaders now decide it's time to regulate them properly? So far they've been fined a fraction of the money they've made. Nobody important has been jailed.

Banks tell us: we pay lots in taxes; we create jobs; we'll leave for Hong Kong if you regulate us; blah blah blah.

You can read our point-by-point demolition of these false arguments in our earlier post: What does banking contribute to UK Plc? 7 myths exposed, and why we must rein them in

...or you can sit back and watch our 3-minute fact-based comedy animation...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , ,
2012 saw a series of coruscating reports on callous nurses in British hospitals. Criticism was heard in Westminster when an MP compared her hospitalised husband’s final days with those of a battery chicken

The Chief Nurse weighed in, as senior managers who find themselves in a sticky corner often do, calling for more measuring and targets. She announced that the "Five Cs" of nursing are to increase to "Six Cs", and will be measured. Care; Compassion; Commitment; Communication; Courage; Competence. Snarling nurses to be tamed by more Cs and more targets!

Among all the storm and stress a nurse speaking on a news programme made what is surely the key point: in recent decades compassion has shrivelled in Britain. Caring about the well being of our fellow Britons is not merely out of fashion, it is regarded as a game for mugs. To paraphrase an infamous tax dodger, "Compassion is for the little people".  To be precise, not "for" as in the beneficiaries of compassion, but "for" as the responsibility: it is for the little people to be compassionate.

Compassion is about empathising with the suffering of others. But in Britain, the greatest rewards - knighthoods, peerages, and tax breaks - are reserved for those who profit from the suffering of others. No group is more profitable and more targeted than the poorer Britons. From a vast medley take just three examples: the government cuts benefits for the working poor to pay for top-rate tax cuts; banks impose excessive penalty charges on the unauthorised overdrafts of those who run out of money; energy companies take a poverty premium from gas and electricity meter users too poor to be trusted with a quarterly bill.

Companies actively use incentives to drive compassion out of their staff at all levels. The FSA released a consultation stating that corruption has eaten its way down to junior staff. Martin Wheately, Managing Director of the FSA and CEO designate of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA, which will take over from the FSA as the new financial services regulator), said in his speech to senior bankers at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event

“while public attention has been on the huge rewards on offer to the few, the effect of more modest rewards on the many needs to be dealt with….Incentive schemes on PPI were rotten to the core”

We looked at 22 firms of all sizes, including high street banks, building societies, insurance companies and investment firms.  And what we found is not pretty.  Most of the incentive schemes we looked at were likely to drive people to mis-sell to meet targets and receive a bonus

.. another firm allowed sales staff to earn a bonus of 100% of their basic salary for the sale of loans and PPI, but the bonus was only payable to those who had sold PPI to at least half their customers.”

Friday, 14 December 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels: , , ,
Chris puts KJ and Fee right...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
MPs will escape George Osborne’s pensions tax raid
Last week Osborne lowered the tax-free limit on lifetime pension pots to £1.25m. As an example, a male worker in the private sector has to save £1.44m to receive a £43,387 pension. An MP only has to save £867,740, so will not be affected by the change. Experts at Hargreaves Lansdown said the figures show the “historically generous” pensions awarded to MPs. TELEGRAPH
(...And the words “historically generous” show the “historically generous” language used by the experts to describe how our MPs spend eternity with their piggy faces in the trough.)

HSBC 'to pay $1.9bn' in US money laundering settlement 
The UK-based bank, Europe’s biggest, helped launder money belonging to drug cartels and terrorist states. A US Senate investigation found that laundering methods included transporting $7bn in notes from Mexico to the US, and servicing Saudi banks linked to terrorism. HSBC apologised, saying it would claw back pay from any executives involved. “Money laundering” is used to describe when the proceeds of crime are quietly handed to the criminals responsible. BBC NEWS
(...And at HSBC, “salary and bonus” is used to describe when the proceeds of the same crime are handed to HSBC’s executives.)

Rail travellers hit by 10% fares rise
Train operators were accused of deliberately burying this bad news on the day the Government’s handling of the West Coast Main Line franchise was criticised in two reports. The private rail industry relies on an annual £4bn of taxpayer subsidies. TELEGRAPH
(...and a team of sharp spin doctors.)

Which? says bank staff 'still push unsuitable products'
Major mis-selling scandals have failed to change bank behaviour. The Which? survey found 65% of bank sales staff said they were being placed under severe pressure by managers to hit targets. The banks have promised less emphasis on sales commissions that clearly incentivise mis-selling, in favour of better line management. BBC NEWS
("Sales commissions were the carrot. If we're just left with the stick, we're gonna use it." said our bank insider.)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
That's Cameron's plan... unless the lobbyists get in the way...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday, December 09, 2012 Posted by Jake 11 comments Labels: , , , , ,

In the Autumn Statement of 2012 the chancellor’s idea of ‘more Austerity’ was not much of a surprise. To prove "we are all in it together" Osborne cut benefits for the poor and disabled and also cut pension savings allowances for the rich. 

Osborne hoped that nobody would notice that this takes money away from the poor immediately, but only reduces the incomes of the rich some time in the future when they retire to find their pensions aren't as large as they otherwise may have been. Though by that time the economy would have recovered and other wheezes will doubtless have been dreamed up to once again fatten up those elite pensions. 

Osborne decided that at the time of crisis the poor would have to make immediate sacrifices so that no significant contribution would be required from the rich in the form of higher income tax or a new wealth tax. Far from a making an extra contribution the wealthy have instead been given cuts in income tax and corporation tax

But is all this austerity for the 99% really the only option we have? This graph from a McKinsey report in 2010 illustrates the lies we are being fed to justify the austerity.

Government debt is at a historical high.
The Treasury stated that in October 2012 government net debt was 67.9% of GDP. The McKinsey graph shows that far from being a high, for most of the last three centuries government debt has been much higher. Debt generally balloons during wars, when elites pour blood and treasure into protecting their own and snatching one another’s assets. Andy Haldane, executive director of the Bank of England, speaking to BBC Radio4 in December 2012 compared the economic impact of the current crisis with that of a world war:

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
KJ, Chris and Fee wonder whether we'll ever get our hands on all the tax haven billions...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Thursday, December 06, 2012 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels:

David Cameron ordered to stop saying NHS spending is up

David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt have been ordered to stop claiming that NHS spending has increased after the official statistics watchdog found health funds had fallen. The UK Statistics Authority issued the rebuke after upholding a complaint by Labour about statements by the Prime Minister and other senior Tories. TELEGRAPH
(Blimey. If the UK Stats Authority keeps this up, our beloved leaders won’t be able to utter a word ever.)

Osborne bashes benefits: Increases capped at just ONE PER CENT
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement means working age benefits will no longer rise in line with inflation, with 60% of families affected. Amid grim economic forecasts, Osborne was forced to admit he had failed to meet his own targets for getting a grip on Britain's debt. A wide range of other changes to tax and spending were announced. But he did say that 'Those with the most should contribute the most, and they will.' DAILY MAIL
(Those with the most should contribute the most, eh? We always thought you were a dangerous left-wing subversive, Mr Osborne.)

£40bn held in Swiss bank accounts by UK taxpayers
A breakthrough tax agreement with the Swiss government comes into force on 1 January 2013. It is hoped that this will flush out £5.3bn in extra tax over the next six years. The UK government admits it may not be able to pin down who, exactly, owns all the money in Swiss banks. It raises questions as to how much is held in other tax havens. Getting British taxes out of a tax haven that is a foreign country is a major achievement. BBC NEWS
(...and getting British taxes out of a tax haven that is a British dependency – which most of them are – is nigh on impossible!)

Top 10% of households are 850 times wealthier than the bottom 50%
A report by the Office for National Statistics reveals that the bottom 50% of households in Britain have just £4,400 of cash, property and pensions compared to the £1.2m held by the top 10%. The total wealth of the UK, including pensions, property and savings, is £10.3tn. The bottom 50% of households own less than one tenth of that, and the wealthiest 10% own 43.8%. GUARDIAN

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , ,
...and Cameron is not happy...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sunday, December 02, 2012 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
In January 2012 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) launched an investigation on “Retail food pricing and promotional practices”. The investigation was closed on 30th November 2012, when  the OFT courageously announced
“The OFT has made no finding that the supermarkets have breached the law or were engaging in misleading promotional practices.”
That the supermarkets did not breach the law is not a surprise. British consumer protection law in the form of the “Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations” is a charter for rip-offs. The law explicitly states that deception is perfectly legal so long as it only deceives the less than average consumer

Incredibly it is also explicitly legal under this law for a trader to knowingly engage “in a commercial practice which contravenes the requirements of professional diligence” so long as his actions are not “likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer with regard to the product under regulation”.  Blimey! 

But while the law only protects the more than average half of Britons, the Office of Fair Trading provides detailed guidance so even the most brutishly stupid retailer will understand how to skirt around consumer protection law if he is so inclined. A kind of 'no retailer left behind' scam tutorial.

To help the dimmer retailers OFT's guidance provides pictures to make sure retailers don't need a moral compass to navigate the law. The law identifies 31 practices that are banned under all circumstance. But apart from those 31, anything goes so long as it only hits the 'less than average'.

Although the above graphic from the OFT's "Guidance on  the Consumer  Protection from Unfair Trading  Regulations  2008" states that it is "Unfair if they cause consumers to take a different decision", the law itself clarifies that this only protects the "average" consumer as stated in these extracts from the legislation

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