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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 23 July, 2014

Column: Nick Leeson’s 4 lessons learned from 2011

Ireland and a euro break-up, the truth about tribunals, white collar crime and the dangers of ‘pay day’ loans – former trader Nick Leeson rings the closing bell on 2011.

Nick Leeson

AS WE APPROACH the end of the year I thought I’d take a slightly tongue in cheek look back at a couple of the lessons that we have learned this year…

The euro now looks like fool’s gold but the Irish may be best placed if there is a break-up of the common currency.

Passing sovereign rights to the EU and entering the euro is coming back to haunt all of Europe and most definitely the Irish. There is talk of a referendum but what is that other than a collective vote that, no, we really do not know what to do. The crisis started over three and a half years ago and yet conditions have continued to deteriorate. The euro trades at a twelve month low and the latest talk is that the necessary support may come from Russia – a country that has suffered no end of currency and banking crises over the last two decades.

I can fully understand why no one is convinced.  Merkel had advanced into Europe more than several of her predecessors put together. As the German conductress moves her baton, the rest of Europe follows.

Ireland may not fare the worst of a break-up of the euro. Analysts at Bank of America are suggesting that Ireland would fare the better of all the weaker European nations that are currently experiencing difficulties.

Tribunals achieve nothing, waste money

The Moriarty Tribunal this year became the latest tribunal to run its course. It took 14 years, cost an inordinate amount of taxpayer money and achieved absolute nothing. There were a couple of recommendations, a degree of inference that looked to be entirely inappropriate and has now effectively passed into folklore.

Tribunals are not the way of the future – they are little more than a waste of time. Barristers and consultants get paid large sums of money and draw no conclusions. That is, of course, unless we are going to have the Leeson enquiry into Anglo Irish Bank. If there is wrongdoing, prove it in a court of law – THAT is what should be happening with the goings-on in the world of banking. Tribunals are ineffective, costly and have limited powers where there is wrongdoing.

Ireland is the best place to live if white collar crime is on your agenda

If you think you can lose billions and billions of euro through irresponsible lending, illegally propping up your own share price and fraudulent accounting, Dublin is the place for you. Fast becoming the white collar crime capital of the world, charges are rarely, if ever brought against you.

If you do suffer the misfortune of being arrested and having to answer a couple of nasty searching questions at your local Garda station, the hardest criminals that you will have to come across will be a couple of drunks that you had been drinking with at the yacht club a couple of hours earlier. As cases are heard and large sentences and even bigger fines are handed down week after week, the status quo remains untroubled in Ireland.

If only Barings had an office in D4 rather than Singapore.

Lastly, a lesson – and warning – for the New Year…

Even in advance of Christmas, there are very worrying signs of how difficulties are starting to mount in households and the despairing lengths that some people are being forced into in order to access cash. Loans referred to as ‘pay day’ loans are massively on the increase in the UK. They are the latest legalised method of money lending and carry the most exorbitant interest rates that I have had the misfortune to see.  Should you not repay the money back in the allotted period, usually one week or one month, the annual rate of interest rises nearly as high as 5000 per cent per annum.

As with the sub-prime mortgages that predicated the credit market collapse from which we are still reeling, these types of loan prey on the most vulnerable sector of society – that which cannot access money elsewhere. Stories of absolute ruin, exorbitant borrowing costs and the amount owed spiralling out of control are spreading like wildfire across the UK.

I hope the Irish authorities take note and make sure that the availability is very restricted here. Much of the advertising is geared around how easy the loans are. One particular advert depicts a group of elderly ladies in an office showing how easy the application process is and how you can have the money in your account in less than 15 minutes. One thing is assured – you will take a lot longer to repay it and will also end up paying back considerably more.

Please avoid them at any cost, don’t be lured in by the clever marketing. Please learn the lessons of yesteryear, don’t repeat the cycle and please say: No.

Read Nick Leeson’s columns for TheJournal.ie >

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