Thursday, 1 June 2017

Banking Crisis, Blacklisting & Justice

Clearing the air in banking crisis & blacklist scandal
by Brian Bamford
LAST weekend, a Financial Times (FT) editorial explained the purpose of the legal process:
'The law tries cases and metes out punishment for a number of reasons.  Securing restitution for damage done and deterring future misdeeds are the most respectable and most often cited.  There ais subtler reason, though, one that is easily forgotten.  Justice often consists in simply setting the record straight, in saying  what happens in a clear, public and final way.  If this last element is neglected, old wounds can remain open.'

The F.T. editor was referring in this case to the financial crisis, and the current specific shareholder suit against the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as an example.  The RBS shareholders are after money compensation, and are seeking £700 million, claiming that they were misled by the bank ahead of a £12 billion rights issue in 2008, which was then followed by a state bailout and a further collapse in the value of the shares.  

Some of the shareholders who suffered from the shakedown by the bank and refused offers of a settlement say they want fundamental questions answered publicly.  'It's about seeing the ex-directors in court and for all what happened,' one said.

The F.T. editor focusing on the Royal Bank of Scotland writes:
'The shareholders would, more specifically, want to see former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin in the dock.  Mr Goodwin has, to a degree, been punished already.  He has lost his job, of course, and his knighthood was stripped away five years ago.  After a fight he was forced to accept a reduction in his pension.  But, aside from an appearance in front of a Commons inquiry, he has not had to answer publicly for what he happened at RBS or his role in it.'

Essentially neither the banking crisis nor, more importance to us, the issue of blacklisting in the British building trade is about one man or about one bank or about one construction company.  They are both issues of concern to the country as a whole. 

The banking and the financial crisis with its mis-selling and price-fixing scandals has ended up involving the tax-payer, and the state is still saddled with three-quarters of ownership of RBS.  And the government has recently accepted that it may never square the circle.  Yet, as the F.T. editor points out 'nearly a decade after the crisis, no senior UK bank executive has yet been a defendant in a civil or criminal trial as a result of the banking sectors' decimation by bad loans, risky funding and ill-structured products.'

The blacklisted workers in the British building trade would immediately recognise this scenario as described above.  Despite blacklisting on a vast scale which is in all probability continuing, no culpable executive in the construction industry has had to appear in person before a criminal court in this country.  True compensation has been paid by the companies to the victims of blacklisting in out-of-court settlements, but apart from people like Callum McAlpine having to appear in front of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee with his solicitor by his side, there has been no proper admission of guilt.  Indeed, Mr. McAlpine told the Scottish Affairs Select Committee he'd been advised by hie solicitor that he couldn't answer any questions on the grounds of.sub judice.

It does not seem that the blacklisted electricians on the British building sites will ever get full justice through the courts; Dave Smith, as an agency worker, recently lost his case at the European Court of Human Rights  That is 'full justice' of the kind of sense of justice which according to the F.T. editorial above 'consists in simply setting the record straight, in saying  what happens in a clear, public and final way.'

Consequently, unless  the Labour Party comes to power in the forthcoming general election and establishes an independent public inquiry into blacklisting as promised by some including the Blacklist Support Group, the air will never be cleared in the British building trade creating much disgruntlement among the workers and trade unionists, and construction companies will continue to impose forms of blacklisting throughout the industry.  Thus, old wounds will remain open in the British trade union movement.

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