I knew it was too good to be true. I bookmarked an FT story late yesterday that at the time was titled “Panicked Antiguans rush to withdraw funds”, but is now headed “Storm waves crash on tiny Caribbean island”. The article noted that:
“…a Swiss newspaper reported that former Swiss President Adolf Ogi will be immediately stepping down from the advisory board of the advisory board of the Stanford Financial Group. ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with something that could be dodgy,’ Mr Ogi told the Cash newspaper on Wednesday.”
I know I’m not imagining things because (among others) the FT’s own search engine throws up the original article title and text. The quote appears all over the internet too.
What amused me was that yesterday I followed a link to the original story which was in German. This one probably. What Adolf Ogi appears to have actually said was:
“Ich will nicht mit etwas zu tun haben, das unsauber sein könnte.”
Now, despite the efforts of Mr Smith, my German teacher, my knowledge of the language (let alone Swiss German) is fairly rudimentary. Nevertheless, I suspect that the operative word in the above sentence is “unsauber”. The English equivalent may well be “unsavoury” and the internet gives a number of other translations for the word, none of which is “dodgy”.
What’s clearly happened, probably at a news agency (Reuters seems to be the source) is the guys have discussed the story. “‘Ogi’, how do you pronounce that? As in ‘Oggy, oggy, oggy! Oi, oi, oi!‘?” “No, mate, rhymes with ‘dodgy’ “. And the rest is history!
It’s frequently rewarding to read right to the end of articles. Today, for example, the FT notes that “Gordon Brown took part in transatlantic economic ‘war games’…” and quotes the PM:
“What nobody bargained for was a shock that went right throughout the system internationally and froze the banking system. The regulatory system had designed itself to look at what would happen if an institution failed.”
Interesting. Because I could swear that I frequently see the odious Alistair Darling on BBC News 24 explaining how Northern Rock, and now HBoS, had deeply flawed business models, because they were too reliant on the money markets rather than trusty old retail deposits.
As I’ve already explained, it should be up to the authorities to keep the money markets open, not individual institutions to plan for them to shut without warning. Given that large amounts of the money that needs to be lent by Western banks (OK, around $2trn) is owned by the Chinese government, the only way it can get to where it is needed is via the “money markets”. Does Darling expect the Chinese to send plane-loads of brief-case carrying state functionaries to the UK to deposit the cash in a Nationwide account?
The whole explanation they give for Northern Rock’s failure is pure self-serving deceit by the Government and the regulatory authorities. Even worse, it may be self-deceit. If they all believe their own propaganda, then clearly they have become incapable of thinking in straight lines. Heaven help us!
The Government should just pay the Northern Rock shareholders what the market thought the bank was worth before the start of the Great Crunch in 2007. And stop screwing the remaining private shareholders in the banks.