Economics - Anti-Capitalism - Policy & Ideas

2007 - 2022

RBS? C’est la merde!


RBS will be paid a bonus of almost £800,000 just weeks after his bank was fined £391 million for rate-rigging. Douglas Wilson on the psychology of banking, greed and quantitative easing


It was Sigmund Freud who posited the connection between excrement and money, which is to say, that people with an unhealthy obsession with money are, according to Freud’s theory, stuck in the anal stage of development, in which the infant child is overly anxious about its own faeces, which it also experiences as pleasure.

You can take Freud or leave him as you please; certainly, I find it unlikely that we all want to sleep with our mothers and murder our fathers – though nothing would surprise me about the Conservative Party. But the Freudian theory about money and excrement came to mind when I saw Stephen Hester on Channel 4 News the other night, defending himself and the Royal Bank of Scotland over the LIBOR rigging scandal.

Here, to me, was a man who looked severely constipated as he tried to explain away the events of the scandal which was taking place under his nose long after the British tax-payer bailed out the bank in 2008 and Hester was appointed to the job.

Here, too, was a man who picked up a two million pound bonus in 2010 when LIBOR rigging was a going-concern for doing his job ever so well and who has no intention of giving it back apparently. The same public servant who, in an unintended burst of self-satire, described the LIBOR rigging scandal as “an extreme example of a selfish and self-serving culture”.

By Hester’s body-language, you might have thought the tax-payer, Jimmy Bloggs, had broken into the RBS chief’s family home, ransacked the place, and stolen the family silver – of which there must be a lot.

Likewise, RBS chairman, Sir Philip Hampton, who without the slightest trace of irony, described the events of last Wednesday – the day RBS was fined £390 million for widespread misconduct – as “a sad day for banking”.

A sad day for banking? I didn’t know there was such a thing. A sad day for the rest of us more like, who have been fleeced by the bankers, and fleeced again, with much more in store, as numerous lawsuits are filed against the RBS connected to the LIBOR rigging scandal and also to the share issue made under Fred Goodwin, allegedly under false pretences.

To be fair to Hester, he did try to resign on Wednesday, but the board wouldn’t accept his resignation; though to be fair to common sense and normal parlance, I don’t quite know what that means. Most people I know who resign don’t turn up for work the next day.

Which is the point about the banks and the bankers. Not only have they devastated the economy, they have also devastated the English language, undermining the meaning of perfectly respectable words which had done no harm to anybody in the past and creating an obscure jargon which the most abstruse theoretical Hegelian Marxist would be proud of; a language designed to obfuscate and to occlude; in the case of our bankers – fast becoming television celebrities so often are they in the news – depraved, unlimited, insatiable greed.

Take the word “bonus” for example; the only time most people I know have ever seen that word is on the puggy machine in the pub, certainly never on a pay-slip. At the best, a car salesman might use it after selling a Rolls-Royce; say, to a banker.

But when a man collects two million pounds in the same year he presided over the biggest felony in world history – such is how it has been described by some – you know the word has lost its meaning, that the bottom has fallen out of it, much like it has the economy.

Personally, I would much prefer to see two million pounds of tax-payers money handed out in ten pound notes on Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday afternoon than see Hester or anybody in RBS pocket it. It would certainly do more for the British economy.

The ineffable George Osborne, he of that esteemed Conservative think-tank known as the Bullingdon Club – a hothouse of ideas as we are seeing – has promised us that the tax-payer won’t foot the bill for the 390 million pound fine imposed on RBS, that the money will be recuperated from bonuses paid out to RBS executives; as if that were a concession of some sort.

For the 390 million pound fine is the least of it. The bank bailout, masterminded by the leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling, has been the biggest fiasco visited on the British tax payer ever. Thanks to Darling, Labour and Brown, we are now 87% stakeholders of a bank about to be sued for billions by pension funds, investors and private companies. What is Alistair Darling saying about the RBS fiasco? I, for one, would like to know.

Freud developed his theory about the symbolic relation between excrement and money after noting: “I read one day that the gold the devil gives his victims regularly turns into excrement”. Which, whether you want to take his theory seriously or not, offers a pretty neat parable of the case of the RBS, a once proud institution which enriched the nation when it was dedicated to that old-fashioned notion of regular high-street banking – before Thatcher, Brown and Blair turned it into a casino – and whose riches turned excrement have been passed on to the unwitting tax-payer thanks to Alistair Darling.

That parable also offers an alternative, contemporary reading of those once illustrious initials, and what the last of these now stands for, at least as far as the tax-payer is concerned. RBS? C’est la merde!!!

As for the 2014 referendum, the idea that the wavering voters out there in Scotland who need to be persuaded to vote for independence might not be convinced even after the RBS fiasco – that we might end up remaining part of UK PLC – causes me, at least, a sudden, distressing, bowel movement deep inside…or in the scatological language of the bankers, an urgent need for quantitative easing.


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  1. …and meanwhile, back in reality, families are about to be hammered if they happen to have a spare room. Many of them will have spent yesterday afternoon watching Scotland beating Italy at Murrayfield while being subliminally bombarded with RBS advertising painted on the pitch.
    Does anyone know – precisely, please – how many of these sociopathic parasites have gone to jail for what they’ve done??

    1. Douglas says:

      Ian, as I understand it, for LIBOR nobody has gone to prison so far. In fact 6 of the 22 RBS staff involved in LIBOR rigging are still working for RBS today, another 8 left before the regulator’s finding … the Crown is conducting on-going investigations, but apparently the legislation in place dates back to the 60’s, at which time the professions like bankers, lawyers and doctors etc were considered to be honest people, with their own internal code of ethics so to speak. Obviously things have changed since then…basically, the laws are not in place to lock up malpractice in the banking sector. Which is simply staggering…

      1. Cheers Douglas.
        I had a strange dream last night that someone being interviewed on Radio Scotland gave pretty-much the same details you just posted. Isn’t that strange? Still, to see those facts set down in black and white somehow makes them more ‘real’, if that’s possible.
        Staggering? Aye, and then some.
        Tonight I’m planning to dream that I’m parked in front of the telly with a big bottle of Lambrini and a pepperoni pizza, watching uninterrupted 24/7 coverage of these fuckers being decapitated in Trafalgar Square.
        Only in dreams…

  2. John Souter says:

    We all know and are all disgusted by it; but the ‘all’ doesn’t include the establishment.

    They are only interested in what they can get out and gain from of it by testing how deep they can go and still retain control. It’s a nurture thing they believe might is irrevocably right and right is indisputable.

    Perhaps they have already breached the bubble of their credibility with its mired reflection of competence and soon their euphemisms of welfare will transform into warfare.

  3. cirsium says:

    Douglas – this article would have carried more punch if you had referred to “LIBOR rigging crime” rather than “LIBOR rigging scandal” and “RBS was fined £390 million for widespread criminal activity” rather than “RBS was fined £390 million for widespread misconduct”. As long as the emphasis is on Freud rather than fraud, the criminals will continue to fleece their victims.

    1. Alan Gerrish says:

      Not to mention that any fine will be paid by money from …..the taxpayer! This cesspit of inequality and immorality called UK is beyond the pale and I don’t understand why there isn’t rioting in the streets as would happen in any “normal” country in a similar situation. I know we should rely on rational argument to win the war, but I’m getting really hacked off by the supine reaction to these events. Maybe we do indeed deserve,the constitutional system and “national” government we are too frightened to change.

  4. thejourneyman says:

    “What is Alistair Darling saying about the RBS fiasco?” It will probably go something like this. “If Scotland had been independent we couldn’t have bailed them out and remember the banks were too big to fail!”
    But in reality maybe that means we could have let them fail, jailed the perpetrators, wiped out much of the debt and started to re-build our country – a bit like eh!!!! – Iceland! Let’s hear something in the MSM about that now!

    1. Douglas says:

      Absolutely right…the RBS scandal is showing just what bailing out a bank which is too big to fail entails. There would appear to be more sane and honest people in Carstairs than in the public owned RBS. But back to Darling. Surely he should resign his seat in parliament? This outrage is and Gordon Brown’s doing…they should be held to account!!!

  5. Barontorc says:

    ‘Fraid the moral compass is going a bit awry for now – in other words they’re both up to our necks in it and certainly have no intentions of making anything like a ripple never mind a wave.

    Remind me, how did the MP expenses fraud go for them?

    If any of us, too wee, too poor and demonstrably too stoopid Scot’s still listen to a single syllable that either of them utter, then bigger fools us.

  6. Steven Hill says:

    Good article, if he does leave though it won’t take long to fill, I mean the guy continues to lose money yet picks up huge sums of cash, I reckon a lot of others could do that same job.
    Interesting to say taxpayers won’t foot the bill for the fines imposed but you can bet that it will be the customers, how long till free banking is removed all together and all accounts are charged a premium? Perhaps the government should use RBS for all their money transfers, encourage account openings and try to recoup the share price a bit to get some value back? But it just seems to be a constant stream of bad press and MP bashing of an organisation whose success is in the interest of all of us!

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