February 3, 2012

FSA chief exec Hector Santa this week mounted an eloquent – if barely audible – defence of his leading role in the RBS debacle. Called to give evidence before the Treasury Select Committee, Santa explained reasonably that he had never wanted the stupid job in the first place but some other boys had made him do it.

He insisted that he was really really “sorry that the bank failed” and sorry for all the little people who “got caught up in the financial crisis.” Apparently he had long had concerns about the financial health of RBS, whose over-reaching takeover of ABN Amro he oversaw, but maybe not voiced them at an appropriate volume.

The people in charge of running RBS (e.g. the freshly stripped and now in hiding Freddie Goodwin), Santa insisted, should never be allowed to work in finance again. Curiously he declined to follow through the logic of this pronouncement, by adding that those in charge of regulating this risibly flimsy financial edifice should never work in regulation again.

In retrospect, Santa felt, he might have been remiss in not shouting more. Or more loudly. If he hadn’t been so softly spoken, more people might have harkened to his urgent – if strangely muted – misgivings over RBS.

“I could have shouted louder,” Santa admitted ruefully. But perhaps he’s being too hard on himself – not everyone has the lungs of Brian Blessed. Just in case his softly-spokeness gets him into trouble again in future, maybe he could take some tips from these guys.


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