This is a metaphorical essay on personal ethics, worthy of a serious read and contemplation. When I saw the title I was intrigued but suspected it had something to do with Andy Grove’s adage, “sewage flows downhill,” which means “if anything bad happens it will eventually flow down to you.” This is about ethics. The points made here are particularly apt in light of the huge number and sheer scale of recent business frauds: the Volkswagen fraud, LIBOR, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, Conrad Black in Canada, Olympus in Japan, Bernie Ebbers and Worldcom, Tyco International, stretching back all the way to Enron, Michael Milken’s junk bonds, and the 1980’s savings & loan debacle.
Liar’s Poker is one of those books one of your friends strongly urges you to read. A short little book, the recommendation I got from Bill Howe, my Canadian Intel colleague in Europe, was that it was a hilarious read. And so it was. It reads like Animal House. Michael Lewis also recently wrote The Big Short, his analysis of the 2008 financial meltdown. Liar’s Poker has been described as a comedy, and The Big Short as a tragedy, which seems very apt to me if you have heard Michael discuss both books. Many may know Michael best for his recent success with Moneyball.
Four senior executives from the Belfast office of international accountancy firm KPMG have been arrested on tax evasion charges. KPMG acknowledged in a press release that four of its top executives in Northern Ireland were arrested Wednesday.
Canada is routinely cited as a boring backwater in financial services that has none of the scandals plaguing the rest of the industry. But in an extraordinary investigative report on The National, CBC’s Ian Hanomansing revealed an ongoing Canada Revenue Agency investigation, and a looming criminal investigation into KPMG Canada’s Isle of Man tax “haven” scheme reserved for its wealthiest clients. The report names names. Current Canadian government ministers are also implicated in apparent conflicts of interest.
UBS has confirmed it is being investigated by US authorities into whether it helped Americans evade taxes through investments banned in the US. The Swiss bank said US regulators were investigating potential sales of so called “bearer bonds”. These bonds can be transferred without registering ownership, enabling wealthy clients to potentially hide assets. The fresh investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and from the US Securities and Exchange Commission comes after UBS paid $780m (£512m) in 2009 to settle a separate Justice Department tax-evasion probe.
Some people seem to be having a problem with Nick Hanauer. He seems to have pissed off a lot of people, but at the same time, he seems to be talking sense and to have achieved significant traction. This often seems to happen in times of turmoil and change. A multi-millionaire in his own right, but also someone with a profound liberal arts and humanities grounding, Mr. Hanauer has called “foul,” with the behavior of the 1%. I am personally fascinated with people like this, because I sense that Hanauer is somewhat like me. I worked with Ivy League MBA’s at Intel who said to me that they wished that they had my humanities education, while I told them that I wished I had their management education. I now teach management in a prestigious university and can comment intelligently.
It appears that international banking fraud and market manipulation continues unabated. The newest scandal brewing involves Swiss, British and American banks manipulating foreign currency exchange rates. The LIBOR fraud scandal has apparently done nothing to improve the ethics of the global financial services industry.
Less than two weeks ago I posted on this blog the revelation that banking authorities in Switzerland had opened an investigation into foreign exchange (arbitrage) fraud by Swiss banks. My report went on to say that the investigation was uncovering implications of broader involvement of banking institutions outside of Switzerland. Today, the Financial Times in London published an explosive article naming 15 global banks now implicated in the expanding investigation of global foreign exchange fraud and manipulation.