For some reason I know not the fines imposed on the bank for rigging the exchange rate triggered a memory of a conversation with my father over thirty years ago. It’s a curiosity – if that is the right word – that neither the victims of the scandal are compensated nor the perpetrators punished and a fact that Barclays share price rose more than the value of the fines. This is because the fines are already priced into the shares.
All those years ago my father was speaking to me of a conversation he had with the leading banker of his day, Pat Matthews, a carpenter originally by trade, who set up First National Bank. Obtaining bank licences then was less demanding and this bank soon rose to prominence as a lender chiefly in the property sector. Came the crash of the seventies in the boom and bust economy and it was left with security less than its loan book and was the subject of the Bank of England’s lifeboat fund. This necessitated Pat Matthews presenting himself at the Bank of Engkand and he recounted the story to my father. Given the distance of time and that I was far removed for being present the reader will forgive me any inaccuracy but the gist I believe is accurate.
Pat Matthews admitted he was frightened and felt out of his depth. He therefore took along one of his co-directors whose name I will give in a moment. Those round the table immediately took to the attack, a typical tactic to bend the person to their will.
After various threats were made the co-director stood up. He explained he was an ex-soldier and politician, rather than financier, but believed the proper courtesies of introduction should first be observed and he would therefore go round the table to do so.
“My name …”he said “is Viscount de Lisle VC .” He had won his VC at the Anzio campaign where he personally took out Germans entrenched in a gully with his Tommy gun and the held the position for 14 hours even though he had been shot and was losing blood. He refused to have the wound dressed and the small platoon he commanded held out till reinforcements arrived and the position was entrenched. He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College Cambridge and was an officer in the Coldtream Guards. He was not a man to experience fear in a board room – rather he inspired courage in those around him. The meeting proceed on far a more even keel.
Looking up the Viscount, I learned he was conservative MP for Chelsea, Minister for Aviation and Governor General of Australia. He had the English type of good looks of an Edward Fox.
To bring the story full circle he was not the type to go fixing exchange rates in a internet chat room.