Criminal Fraud – by whose definition?

Over the last week there has been two separate news items about two very separate men, who are linked only by the virtue of them both working in the banking industry.  What differentiates them at this moment is that one is in prison and the other is not.  After reading the two articles it struck me that the only thing that keeps one of them in jail and the other out, is scale, job title and the ability to bullshit, as neither one has seemingly been blessed with a strong business acumen.

So lets look at the hapless bastard who is now in prison and was refused bail this week because of (quote) “the serious allegations backed up with cogent evidence”.  I am of course referring to the UBS trader – Kweku Adoboli.  Kweku’s “crime” is to have lost UBS £1.5bn in alleged unauthorised trading.  Apparently he is accused of doing this to (quote) “try and make personal gain”.

Now lets look at Fred Goodwin, who until this week was better known as Sir Fred Goodwin, who headed RBS bank until it collapsed in 2008.  He has just been stripped of his knighthood that he was given in 2004 for – “services to banking”.  Sir Fred was so adept at providing his services that by 2008 RBS had suffered losses of £24bn and needed a £45bn injection of taxpayers money.  Did Fred provide these services for free or did he do this to “try and make personal gain”?  I will let you come to your own conclusion on that vexing question after ruminating on Fred’s compensation.

 2001: £733,000 salary, £825,000 bonus
2002: £832,000 salary, £1.73m bonus
2003: £898,000 salary, £990,000 bonus
2004: £990,000 salary, £1.5m bonus
2005: £1.09m salary, £1.76m bonus
2006: £1.19m salary, £2.76m bonus
2007: £1.29m salary, £2.86m bonus
2008: £1.3m salary, no bonus awarded

Total: £20.75m

Pension pot: Worth £342,500 per year (although this was cut from £703,000 per year)

So lets go back to my earlier thoughts;

Scale: – £1.5bn loss versus £24bn

Job Title: ‘Trader’ on the Delta one desk versus ‘Chief Executive’ of RBS.

Ability to bullshit: who got a knightedhood for “services to banking”?

Consider the two cases and think about the scale of the respective losses, which situation required a massive injection of taxpayers money and which had the greatest knock on damage to the UK economy and you begin to realise that we all live in a complete fantasy world that would be impossible to dream up without some very serious drugs and you could never sell it as a television series because you would told that your idea was “to far divorced from reality”.

Final thought – ‘Sorry, who is in prison’?

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Kumbah Mela – India – 2013. Photography opportunity of a lifetime.

For those of you who read this blog you will know that I have a photography love affair with India. You can see the results of the last couple of trips on my photography website.

I thought it would be worth posting about the trip I am planning next year to the Maha Kumbah Mela in India.  I have wanted to do this for years because as a photography trip and a life experience it will be like no other.  This is the major Hindu festival in India which happens once every 4 years.  This one is special as the Maha Kumbah only happens each 144 years.  This is where all the Sadhu’s in India come together which is like nothing else.  Over the month some 60 million visit this place.  I will be there on the two bathing days that matter, the most important being on Feb 10.  I am also going to have a day and a night in Varanasi because it is an amazing place and then a day and night in Delhi because photographing in the old part of the city is also an amazing experience. 

I am putting together a small group of photographers who want to join this once in a lifetime experience. The catch is that hotel rooms in Allahabad need to be booked now because they will quickly sell out.  My agent is holding a few rooms but I will need to confirm by the middle of February this year.

If anyone is interested, contact me immediately for details.  The trip itinerary is below. 

 

Itinerary :

 

Date Day Itinerary City Hotel

04-Feb

Sat Arrive Delhi, transfer to hotel Delhi Ashtan Sarovar Portico

05-Feb

Sun Fly to Varanasi (SpiceJet SG 116 – 09:35  10:50), arrive Varanasi and transfer to Allahabad (2hrs). Allahabad Kanha Shyam

06-Feb

Mon At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

07-Feb

Tue At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

08-Feb

Wed At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

09-Feb

Thu At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

10-Feb

Fri At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam

11-Feb

Sat Drive to Varanasi.  Afternoon sightseeing and prayer ceremony. Varanasi Radisson

12-Feb

Sun Dawn boat ride on the river, sightseeing and fly to Delhi (SpiceJet SG 119 -16:15  17:40). Evening at leisure Delhi Ashtan Sarovar Portico

13-Feb

Mon Delhi sightseeing and fly out End NA

 

Welcome to Heathrow – again

Given that the Olympics is opening in London in the middle of this year it is clear that Immigration Officials have been on more “country ambassador” courses.  I have to share with you my monosyllable exchange this week with a charming female Immigration Officer. Her body language as I approached dictated the direction of our interaction even before it began.  My answers are in italic.

Good morning (said with a smile)

Why are you here?  (Here we go thinks me)

Business

Who do you work for?

Xxxx

Who is xxxx?

They are a business

What sort of business?

They make things

What sort of things?

Internet things

What are you going to do here?

Attend Meetings

Who with?

People

Who are these people?

People who have flown in to have this meeting

Why are you going?

Because it is my meeting

When you leave, where are you going?

Home

Where is home?

Amsterdam

Do you have a Visa?

No

Why not?

I don’t need one

Why don’t you need one?

I am a permanent resident

Where was this passport issued?

London

You haven’t filled in that question on the form

Apologies, thank you for filling it in

Yes, we are here to help  (oh yes, very clearly)

 

Laura Dekker – why Holland has no modern heroes

Laura Dekker the 16-year-old Dutch girl, is about to complete her circumnavigation of the world in her twin masted sailboat ‘Guppy’.  This young girl is remarkable.  At the age of 6 she was sailing a small boat across lakes, at 13 she sailed from The Netherlands to England, and back.  She is the youngest person to ever have completed this trip.

So why my comment in the headline?  When it became public knowledge that Laura, then aged 13 was planning this trip, in jumps Dutch authorities – Netherlands Youth Institute.  Without meeting her and without talking to her they made a court application to have her removed from her father and locked up in a secure facility to prevent her from leaving.  When this failed, they went back to court four more times.  Fortunately the judiciary had more intelligence than the Youth Institute.  So eventually, she is free to go and heads off on her adventure.  It would be reasonable at this point to expect that the authorities expended their energies on how to support this remarkable young girl, but no, earlier this month truancy officers issued her father with a summons claiming that the schoolgirl had been failing to complete her homework on time.  She doesn’t always have access to the internet and her time is usually preoccupied with storms, sleeping and the safety of herself and Guppy.  Frankly I find it amazing that the authorities here have not reached the conclusion that any 14-year-old that can learn all the skills needed to sail a boat single-handedly around the world, would probably not benefit from a standard Dutch education.

So having done something of this magnitude, you would expect that Laura is about to return to a heroes welcome in Holland.  Sadly not. Instead Laura chose the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten as the arrival point because she feared the presence of social services if she returned directly to her native Netherlands

The opportunity that Laura presents for this country as a symbol of determination, skill, intelligence, spirit and individual courage is clearly not as important as this years version of “Voice of Holland” where the country goes into a frenzy to vote and applaud someone who will slide into utter obscurity within 6 months.  It cannot come as any surprise that Laura says that although she loves the Netherlands, she is unlikely to return because she finds it too stifling – now there is a surprise!

I do have to point out that Laura was actually born on a boat in Whangarei Harbour, New Zealand 🙂

You can read the full news article on the BBC website.  You can also read her story on her own website here.

 

‘Wild’ broadband technology leap in the UK

I read with wry grin this week the news item that Virgin Media is going to double broadband speeds for approx 4 million of their customers in the UK to a ‘blinding’ 120Mbit/s (download).  This piece of news was of such national importance that it prompted the Prime Minister to comment that “the investment would be a great boost to the UK”. 

Andrew Ferguson, of independent broadband review site thinkbroadband.com added: “The news is good for UK broadband as a whole and should highlight that the UK is not the internet backwater sometimes it is portrayed as.

Accuse me of being cynical but I do feel obliged to remind both Andrew and David (Cameron), that the UK is an internet backwater and this announcement is reflective of the general state of all UK infrastructure, as anyone who transits Heathrow on a regular basis can attest.  The simple fact that the UK ranks around 35th in the world when it comes to average broadband download speeds tends to underscore the reality.

I pondered why this announcement required a statement from someone of no lesser stature than the country’s Prime Minister and I came to the conclusion that it helps to somehow address a national sense of under achievement.  “Paul, that is too harsh you cynical bastard” I hear you say?  Perhaps, however (by sheer coincidence) a card came into my mailbox this week from KPN – the Dutch SP (telephone company) advising that if I switch to them I can have 500Mbit/s internet.  This was of such national importance that not only did the Dutch Prime Minister resist the urge to comment but neither did the local free newspaper.

Oh, and by the way, we don’t have data caps in Holland either!

Dreams and Reality, which is which?

I read something that began an interesting thought trail that I thought would be worth sharing.  The excerpt was related to dreams and the comment was that it is only in our dreams that we are truly ourselves.  This prompted quite a bit of thought.

Are we really our true selves in our dreams?  Do we engage and create in our dreams as we truly are, without filters?  If we are, then who are we when we are awake?  Are we really ourselves or are we just projecting the persona that is either established for that audience or alternatively creating a persona that we believe the other person(s) needs to see. Each time we do this, how much of that is driven by our ego?  As you think about this, consider honestly how much of the real you is in the persona that you have developed with your partner, siblings, parents, relatives, work colleagues, people in stores, people at church (if you go), people in nightclubs, bars, on public transport.  In each and every one of these situations you adjust some element of your persona so that you are hopefully perceived in a certain way and usually with the intention of determining an outcome.  Then consider that everyone is doing this.

So what is really reality?  Is it your unfiltered dreams (where you are really you), or is it what we tend to think of as reality which is our awake state and no one is really showing who they are and what they really think, acting in a massive multi-layered ego driven tableau?

Think it through, it’s very interesting.  Let me know 🙂

Wicked Start to 2012

I was made aware of the this site called ‘WickedStart‘ which is such a cool idea.  I am constantly amazed at the sophistication of the products and material that you can leverage at little or no cost.  This site has been set up to help people who don’t have a lot of prior business experience, set up a business from scratch.  It is a comprehensive idea-to-launch guide where you set up the details on-line and it guides you through all the key steps to set yourself up successfully.  Having had a few interesting conversations with people in NZ over the last few weeks I can see that this site would benefit them enormously.  Kudos to the people behind this site.  I think it will help save a few people from themselves.