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Corporate governance

KPMG — one of that elusive former canon of ‘big-five’ accountancy-consulting-we’ll-do-whatever-as-long-as-there’s-a-fee-and-collude-however-nefariously-you-want-us-to firms, had A Vision of a Global Strategy. Part of that vision risibly included a corporate song that workers can learn and beat out in times of real stress.

It went: "KPMG: we’re as strong as can be/a dream of power and energy/we go for the gold/together we hold onto our vision of global strategy/etc ad nauseam". Terrible. And irrelevant. Particularly when you realise that only the most arse-licking cream of any firm attempting such esprit de corps will be interested at all in such self-serving drivel.

What of WorldCom (now MCI), the disgraced global fixed-line telecoms operator? Its purchase of Sprint was designed to provoke an M&A enquiry, so as to hide its rising costs, and CEO Burned Ebbers borrowed more than a billion and offset the figure against his stock options. Top Salomon Smith Barney analyst/virtual employee of the telco Jack Grubman also used to sit in on board meetings...

On the ‘sell-side’, Equitable’s lies over endowment policies and many other things has led to its virtual downfall after centuries of glorious fiddling, sorry, financial assistance. Then of course there’s its great rival Standard Life, whose adverts promote the glory of building your family through sound $$ policies via its talking babies and young kids conceit. That kid is the embodiment of satanism, not two cars up the drive and all mod cons.

And what about investment Bear Stearns, recent arrangers of a huge bond for Manchester City? From the online City newsmail: "You know how it is — you’re a bit tired after that liquid lunch, you start to flag a bit, and whoops! You accidentally lean on your keyboard and a row of noughts appears on your screen. No harm done, of course apart from earning the derision of your work colleagues ... unless you work at, say, an investment bank, called, perhaps, Bear Stearns: ‘Experts Say Little Damage From Bear Stearns Trader’s Error - A clerical error by a Bear Stearns trader mistakenly turned an order to sell $4 million worth of stock into a $4 billion transaction.’"

Just days before the Enron off-balance sheet scandal broke, I was doing a freelance piece for them via a financial publishers. The booklet was to be a Dictionary Of Financial Terms: the irony of this pamphlet of prefabrication is still not lost on me.

And then there’s our supplicating financial press in general, which was more surprised than the public once the tales of corporate fraud, bent recommendations, pensions and endowment mismanagement and murky consultant-accountant divisions came flooding out.

Indeed, an FT chief had to remind his staff that their job is to root out juicy and important corruption stories, not plug some fund manager’s latest lie of a financial instrument, whose workings neither they or the journalist actually understand, after a no-expenses spared posh lunch.


Some true names of US finance people

Odd Tuftin
Allen Appen
Desmond Supple
Al Butkiss
Craig Puffenburger
Rusty Elvidge
Mayo Shatturk
Brent Clapacs
Junko Yoda
Harvey Crapp
Bobby Console-Verma
Alfonso Prat-Gay
Achilles Macris
Michael Zerbs
Jeffrey Goldflam
Rick Ziwot
Randall Oliphant
Edward Hoofnagle
Purvi Tailor
Kelsey Biggers

AmeriCorps —
Internal Memo

Dear Derrick ‘The Fiddler' Clarke,

Regarding the position of CEO, below are the five qualities we are looking for and ideal answers.

Company: Ameri Corps
Position: Chief Executive Officer
The candidate must demonstrate the five unique qualities listed below.

1. Communication; Staff should believe everything they are told. —

Ideal Answer: This is done by dis-information, telling staff what a great job they are doing and how well the company is performing — even though you know it’s losing more money than the national debt of a third world country.

2. Bully - Behaviour must be similar to that of a school bully.

Answer: He (never a she) would instill a degree of — ‘If you don’t do this you will be out of a job, and I will see to it you never be able to climb any other corporate greasy pole.’

3. Liar — He/she must be able to demonstrate a disregard for financial and corporate law. Remember you are the person that sets the rules.

Answer: Use company funds to pay money, sorry donate to all main political parties.

4. Loyalty — Command loyalty and respect.

Answer: Subservient team of auditors. Ideal candidate will make veiled threats if books are thoroughly looked at. For example, tell them that you are considering using a different firm and you are taking away all their consultancy business.

5. Stock Price — Candidate must be able to keep stock price high so that senior executives and he/she can cash in their options.

Answer High stock price can be obtained by ‘respected’, ‘independent’ analysts who you are paying in the form of large consultancy fees. Please note, don’t leave this too late, as when you are found out these options will be worthless.

Previous experience with Enron, Worldcom and Global Crossing will be considered a distinct advantage, although any large corporation will do.

Good luck with the interviews.
Regards, Tony Inchpractice

The wonderful world of finance
A missive from the Amalgamated General Spleen Venters’ Union

If you’re a middle class cog-oiler or working-class aspirant trying to do the decent thing by bettering yourself and entering the housing market (the only true guaranteed assets guys), dabbling in the stock market or simply trusting that the statesmen and corporates who move the $$ around are ethically motivated, then you’d be ‘v.’ upset by the recent rounds of financial deceit. WhoreCull says rent don’t buy, use the black market wherever poss and keep all your money in a piggy-bank. Personal finance is too complex (cf: crooked) to be worthwhile

Housing state
"Hot Properties Special"

Notorious in the late 70s for bombing the living daylights out of the anglophile property market, the Brothers of Glyn Dwr gained a reputation for its uncompromising brand of nationalist shenanigans. Holiday homes from Swansea to that unpronounceable one that looks like the result of a typewriter being dropped down several flights of stairs were torched by militant leek-munchers in a campaign of random bourgeois life-context annihilation. Recently Cull caught up with Taffy Jones (not his real name), one of Glyn Dwr's former explosives experts, for a one-off challenge: Guess which one of the following Welsh houses was recently purchased by English property speculators and we’ll release their name and address. We thought so.

Property #1

TJ: This one looks like your typical two-up two-down terrace, probably in Cardiff. Very popular with the student market. Could be sale to let.

WC: Do you discriminate between Cardiff properties and those in other parts of Wales?

TJ: [laughs] Would we bomb them do you mean? Not really, no.

WC: Why not?

TJ: Cardiff’s practically part of England anyway, so it defeats the object of what we’re about. Plus it’s too densely populated, you’d have to worry about not blowing the neighbours up.

WC: You wouldn’t consider just blowing the door off its hinges?

TJ: Not in a residential area, no. It’s going to be too near traffic and pedestrians. If there was a train station nearby then I might be tempted, but overall I’d have to pass, see? Basically it’s a non-starter. Not interested.

Property #2

TJ: Ah, this is more like it. These are the sorts of places that sprung up all over the valleys from the mid-sixties onwards. The modern features are a dead giveaway. Look at those windows! No self-respecting working-class Welsh family would live in that.

WC: Why not?

TJ: Well, apart from the fact they couldn’t afford it… Actually they’re probably middle-class schoolteachers, but not English. The English always go for houses with ‘character’: barn conversions or ye olde cottages. This is probably just a local couple with money, so they wouldn’t make our hit list, even though it’s an easy hit — nice and remote with plenty of undergrowth for a stake out. But we’re definitely getting warmer. Next!

Property #3

TJ: This is the one! Tidy! Now that’s just begging to be hit. What a giveaway.

WC: What makes it a giveaway?

TJ: It looks like a farmhouse but it’s not.

WC: Why not?

TJ: There’s no muck about it — no muck equals brass. Yuppies disinfect everything. It looks like a farmhouse but it’s got that phoney, artificially weathered look. And it’s got double-glazing. And look at that roof! It’s brand new. Farmers haven’t got that sort of dough. I bet a celebrity owns it.

WC: So you’d be tempted to hit this one?

TJ: Tempted? You bet! And I’d rape his girlfriend. This is definitely a hot property. Everything about it screams holiday home. Where’s my Semtex?

WC: How would you respond to those who say that foreign homeowners are bringing inward investment to the more deprived parts of the countryside?

TJ: I wouldn’t waste my breath.

WC: Surely someone renovating a house provides jobs for the local community? Carpenters, joiners, electricians, labourers…

TJ: I’m not interested in that. People have got jobs to do, so let them get on with it.

WC: But if they’re Welsh then doesn’t that undermine your argument?

TJ: Look. The point is if people want to renovate houses for yuppies they can, because the law says they can. That doesn’t make them right.

WC: So how would you go about blowing up this one?

TJ: I’m hardly going to tell you that, am I? With explosives! [laughs] No, seriously, I tend to practice more subtle forms of terrorism these days. I’d probably start by poisoning their dog, or daubing Welsh slogans on the front door. Then I might slash the tyres on their 4x4 and shit in their fishpond. Psychological stuff is more effective because it leaves more of a lasting impression. Also, if you blow something up they just get the builders back in, whereas with psychology it’s more of a sound investment. What’s their address?

NEXT WEEK: Find out what happened when Taffy paid our homeowners a visit.

There was a Home Counties man bleating on local news recently about how he thought he was always going to have his (distinctly average) view, but "now they’re talking about building houses as high as three storeys here". Three storeys hey? Oh, diddums.

These folkers are only gonna pay attention when a ‘high-rise’ arrives on the doorstep as it’s the only way the lessers will stop paying the rent on their second house & be able to afford a place and the beauty of it all is that it’s risen/crashed before and yet everyone still gets excited when their wealth has risen by yet another 10% guff etc, grrrrrr - still while it is ever spiralling then that’s even more reason to as ever wonder what we’re doing here - this applies to the south-east especially.

It’s a simple case of economics — unfortunately everyone has got their analysis wrong. IT’s NOT just because there aren’t enough houses, it’s because the prices are too high. Because the industry is unregulated

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