Bankers offer act of contrition
In the Middle Ages the four ousted British bankers who brought the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS to the brink of collapse would have probably had to endure the public humiliation of sitting in the stocks.
On Tuesday the likes of former RBS chairman Tom McKillop and former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin had to undergo a more civilised form of public humiliation – a grilling by Parliament’s Treasury committee.
Given the public outrage over their huges salaries and bonuses for banks that are receiving state aid the bankers’ parliamentary appearance could have not have come at a worse time.
Not surprisingly then McKillop, Goodwin as well as former HBOS chairman Dennis Stevenson and former HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby were quick to say sorry.
Equally predictable was the froth of parliamentary indignation. “You’ve destroyed a great British bank,” one parliamentarian told Fred Goodwin.
Whether the bankers’ apology before the committee will sate the British public’s sense of outrage against overpaid and failing bankers is questionable.
But their appearance before the seat of government also raised uncomfortable questions as to the way banks have been regulated in the past and how they will be in the future.
The bankers suggested their pay should be linked to multi-year performance. Are they right? Or does the banking system need more fundamental change?