October 8th, 2012
On Thursday, October 4th, The Banker’s Investment Banking Awards 2012, a black-tie do in the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, were successfully gatecrashed by a group of activists known as The Intruders. They managed to join the veteran BBC newsreader Peter Sissons (what was he doing there, I wonder?) on the stage of the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel’s ballroom and proceeded to announce “an unscheduled award”.
The award — for “innovation in interest rate manipulation” — was formally presented to the bank with the most finely-honed technique, Barclays. Oddly, enough, none of the Barclays Capital investment bankers present at table 11 was willing to climb onto the stage to collect their prize — even though it was a bottle of vintage Bollinger champagne. The two Intruders were then hustled off the stage by some concerned-looking organisers. One looked as though she was about to burst into tears!
Earlier in the video, the voice-over says the awards are the “Oscars of the financial world”, adding: “Some of the world’s richest bankers have gathered to congratulate each other on devising ever more creative ways to make themselves obscene sums of money.”
The same group last month interrupted a cosy black tie dinner in honour of Dave Hartnett, the outgoing boss of H.M. Revenue & Customs. On Hartnett’s watch, HMRC agreed to “sweetheart deals” with major corporations including Goldman Sachs and Vodafone. A Public Accounts Committee report chastised him for being “too cosy” with big business, and of signing off a deal which saved Goldman Sachs £20m in tax payments and another which slashed Vodafone’s tax bill from £8bn to £1.25bn.
Hartnett was being feted in New College’s Great Hall by the corporates and members of the tax planning fraternity who he has served so well. In scenes reminiscent of Harry Potter, the Intruders walk straight into the dinner to present Hartnett with the “Golden Handshake Award”, a lifetime achievement award for “services to corporate tax avoidance”. The video is a classic of its genre, and the response of the supremely arrogant tax barrister Robert Venables QC, who organised the conference, is gold dust. Venables says:
“These people are trespassers and intruders …. You will depart IMMEDIATELY BEFORE WE SET THE DOGS ON YOU …. Go! … You are trespassing scum, Go!”.
As Adam Ramsay later blogged : “[Venables’s] boiling rage showed how unused he is to being challenged, how unaccountable his life-destroying industry is.”
And here’s what James Meadway, senior economist at the New Economics Foundation wrote about it on the NEF blog:
The sheer brazenness with which chief gamekeeper Hartnett cosied up to assorted poachers is something to behold. No other senior civil servant was a more assiduous guzzler of corporate hospitality; Hartnett topped the liggers’ league table with 107 dinner appointments from the likes of accountants KPMG and PWC. All this costs us money: HMRC estimates around £35bn a year is lost from avoidance, while one credible estimate suggest the figure is as high as £120bn – just about enough to close the public spending deficit.
Now it looks like it is open season. The Intruders are planning to disrupt as many high-class events across the City of London as they can!