Clawing back a response to Peston

Rob Peston has revisited the topic of Goodwin’s pension yet again.  Yet for some reason my response on his blog at 09:30 (it’s now 10:30, WordPress shows it to be an hour later for reasons I haven’t got round to investigating) has been “referred to the moderators” – twice.  I suspect what’s happened is that someone disagreeing with me has simply complained about my comment [oops, maybe not – see PS].  By the time it is reinstated it will no longer be one of the most recent posts so will be much less likely to be read.  Here’s what I wanted to say:

Rob, A little bit more measured than your previous posts on Goodwin’s pension, though you get entirely carried away at the end. It seems RBS has always been run competently, but, in a sense, management have been too much in control – hubris was the problem. Losses on loans depend on what happens in the future, so I hardly think RBS shareholders could successfully argue that they were misled by the bank because it failed to predict events resulting in massive losses, such as the insanity of allowing Lehman’s to fail in a disorderly fashion – termed the “second-worst decision of the Bush years” by a City insider I happened to be talking to on Saturday evening.

You presuppose that it is desirable to “claw-back” Fred’s pension. This whole issue is a distraction not only from the debate about the real causes of the financial crisis (regulatory and government somnambulism) – as numerous contributors here have pointed out – but also from the issue of the disgraceful levels of income and other inequality currently prevailing in the UK and elsewhere. We need to solve our systemic problems, not scapegoat individuals.

I’d also like to see a little humility from yourself, since you haven’t retracted your misleading claim that RBS was “not obliged” to top-up Goodwin’s pension. This is not the case and was sloppy journalism, as discussed here.

The whole point is that Myners et al could only have stopped Fred receiving his pension if they’d fired rather than early retired him. But clearly everyone involved knows that Fred was only the most prominent member of a group of people who steered RBS onto the rocks (or something rhyming with “Northerns”, if we want to go all Cockney!) – in fact the main reason Fred had to go was to draw a line under the past so that RBS could move on and start to rebuild.

RBS isn’t the first company to destroy itself with a takeover at the top of the market and it won’t be the last. It seems to me that those who should take a large part of the blame, though, are the pension fund managers who would have seen it all before and should have had the detachment and historical perspective to recognise the mistake, yet nevertheless voted in favour of the disastrous ABN deal.

PS (14:00): I discovered the link to Peston’s previous post was broken (my mistake), so have fixed it above and resubmitted the comment on the BBC site (twice, since nothing happened the first time). Of course, none of this would have happened if they’d simply accepted my original comment as was, or actually done something with it rather than leave it “referred to moderator” until the rest of the world has moved on to other pressing matters (nearly 5 hours and counting).

Mainstream media organisations using their pre-existing dominant market position to capture traffic that would otherwise go to other parts of the blogosphere is legitimate, I suppose, but they shouldn’t be surprised if restrictions on participation induce resentment. Organisations like the BBC which have a state-sponsored monopoly like some 17th century slave-running trading company have, in my view, a strong obligation to operate their blogs democratically, and, if they insist on moderating comments, to resource this activity properly – or get out of the way and leave the job to those prepared to do it properly.

(14:30): No comments even “awaiting moderation” have appeared on Peston’s blog post since 14:00. This is starting to piss me off. Off to do something more productive…

(16:20): At last! My original posts on Peston’s blog have appeared with “[Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]” inserted. Thanks BBC, and sorry to cause hassle, though I still think the moderation system could be improved. No trace of my corrected posts around 14:00, though.