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Liars, Looters, Kleptomaniacs, Cutpurses and Sociopaths

 

VW tops the Pure Greed league

The BBC said that car giant Volkswagen admitted cheating emissions tests in the US. That is not true, US authorities discovered that VW had cheated on advertised emissions from their diesel vehicles. Saying that VW 'admitted' doing it makes it sound like they had an attack of honesty; which would never happen.

Now, VW think they can undo the damage to their reputation by replacing chief executive Martin Winterkorn, with the untainted Matthias Mueller. Acting chairman, Berthold Huber made an apology to customers, adding: "I want to be very clear, the manipulation of tests for diesel engines is a moral and political disaster". No, it's a financial disaster and when greed is your reason for existing then it really is a disaster.

Morality, all very interesting, now the focus is on regulatory authorities across Europe, who we are told knew about VW's fixing as far back as two years ago and did nothing. But by now no one should be surprised by the inaction of our regulatory protectors, after all they did not protect us against horsemeat, or PPI, or interest rate riggers.

VW Update (08/10/15): VW were now claiming that their global emissions scam was all the work of two rogue software engineers and the board of directors knew absolutely nothing about the defeat device software included in the computer systems of their cars.

UP

British Home Stores

BHS went into administration in April 2016 and finally closed 164 UK stores in August 2016; 11,000 staff lost their jobs and the stores 20,000 pensioners faced significant reductions to their pensions, after a pension deficit of £571m was revealed.

MPs said Green had “systematically extracted hundreds of millions of pounds from BHS, paying very little tax and fantastically enriching himself and his family, leaving the company and its pension fund weakened to the point of the inevitable collapse of both.”

Sir Philip Green owned BHS for 15 years via the Taveta Group. The company was subject to “systematic plunder” by Green and then by Dominic Chappell’s Retail Acquisitions group.

Green sold BHS to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015. Chappell said he would bring £60m to the business to turn things around. Instead he “had his hands in the till”, personally taking £4.1m from the ailing company in 13 months of ownership, including a £1.5m interest free loan, secured against his father’s house.

Green was knighted by Tony Blair in 2006, praised for business acumen, indulged and pampered by an establishment that thought his greed so marvellous. In 2010, the Cameron government asked Green to carry out an efficiency review of government spending.

Time wasters…

Silly MPs spent an afternoon in parliament talking of removing Green’s knighthood…

No mention was made of removing Grabiner’s peerage, he was the non-executive chairman of Arcadia group from 2002 , a weak, docile patsy, only in place to add a veneer of respectability to some dirty business. Apparently, Grabiner was only told about the sale of BHS for a £1 after the event.

The MPs also ignored the role of Gold Sachs, they approved the sale to Chapple’s outfit. And what of PwC, taking £2m in audit fees and a further £9m for so-called consultancy, at a time that the company was in decline.

“Why do MPs not call to strip Grabiner of his peerage? Why not demand a ban on public sector consultancies for the useless PwC? Why not exclude Goldman Sachs from all further Whitehall contracts? Are these questions above the pay grade of our poor MPs? It is not capitalism that is rotten just now, but its frothing-at-the-mouth guardians.” (From various Guardian reports)

 

UP

Findus horse lasagne, the plot becomes more inedible

13/02/13

beefThis story started out simply enough and the more it unfolds the more we learn about how rotten the food industry is but not because some abattoir in Romania hoodwinked a food processor France but because of greed and ignorance right here in Great Britain.

Findus, the private equity supplier of ready-meals was shocked to learn that its 100% beef lasagne meals contained horsemeat. Comigel, the French supplier, was surprised to learn that it was making fraudulent claims on its packaging about the beef content of its ready-meals.

Romania, the source of the horsemeat says they haven't supplied Comigel with any meat. Ah, but they did supply someone in Cyprus, who supplied someone in Holland, who supplied a French firm, who supplied Comigel. Then, the FSA raided abattoirs here and found horse!

We have heard from the Food Standards Agency, they don't test for horsemeat, that's the job of the supermarkets. And why doesn't the so-called Food Standards Agency test for adulteration of meat products, because some clever person decided back in 2003 to adopt instead an “intelligence-led” approach to detect fraud or adulteration. Well, intelligence in this instance seems to be at a premium. Testing DNA to check for “food authenticity” passed to Defra, that would be the same Ministry that managed to loose 700 trading standards officers over the past couple of years.

We have also heard from the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who says, everyone who has some responsibility should be responsible (roughly translated as, 'I don't have a clue').

We have also heard from the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, taking time off from his day job, digging up the green belt, to tell us that it's an industry problem but it's all safe to eat. Pressed to say how he knew it was safe he said "because the industry says so". Pressed again on his certainty, given that the industry will not be reporting back until Friday, he said, "because the industry says so". He then mounted his tractor and went back to his digging.

Apart from Findus horse lasagne, supermarkets have been busy clearing their shelves of 'beef' burgers, full of horse meat supplied from Ireland. And stop press! Waitrose have now removed their beef meatballs because they were found to contain pig.

No Conspiracy, and more regulation is not the answer

The Government has spoken darkly of a conspiracy by organised crime to pass off horse meat as beef. Every consignment of unprocessed meat must be fully traceable, but there is no rule governing origin labelling for processed products like mince. So where's the conspiracy, where's the crime? There's a hole in the regulations and meat processors have used it as adeptly as tax lawyer working for the Man from Top Shop.

This fiasco shows us clearly that the regulation meat production is not the glowing tale of efficiency that we have been sold by government agencies; they can trace every cow but can't trace every bag of mince. Ah, but you watch, they will try - everyone involved in the industry will be given even longer forms to fill in, with more boxes to tick; abattoirs, processors, butchers will all have more rules to follow. This will happen, because this is what always happens but it doesn't necessarily improve the situation. And big Dave Cameron is making noises about people facing the full force of the law - which law would that be Dave?

John Seddon of the Guardian sums up this situation as follows:

"Witness the Mid Staffs inquiry: Robert Francis QC acknowledged the dysfunctional consequences of form-filling, cost-management and regulation, but promised more of the same. Doing the wrong thing righter, whether with health or horsemeat, will make neither our healthcare nor our food any safer."

Surplus Profit

So, lots of surprise and ignorance all round; it's amazing how silly big business and government agencies become when the mystery ingredient of surplus profit is discovered. The real criminals in this affair are the supermarkets, forever looking for the cheapest supplier, for forever putting pressure on suppliers to reduce their costs.

Last year, Brussels abruptly banned the use of desinewed meat (DSM) – the scraps recovered from animal carcasses after the prime cuts have been removed. DSM had long been a major part of the supply chain for British meat products. Suppliers here were given just 48 hours to find alternative sources of cheap meat for things like ready meals and burgers, they chose horse.

The supermarkets probably didn't even notice the switch from DSM rubbish to horse because all they care about is cost, they don't have people in labs testing everything to make sure their consumers are safe. They do not have harmonious long-term relationships with suppliers.

In sum: more regulation may provide reassurance for the public but it will not tackle what is essentially a business problem. When and until the supermarkets re-think their relationships with their suppliers, i.e. being prepared to form relationships built around quality control and consistency rather than the short-term quest for lower costs, nothing will change.

 

Railtrack/Jarvis: they kill people, don't they?

Yes is the answer and they did so with impunity.

A judge (13/05/11) ruled that rail infrastructure company Network Rail must pay a £3million fine and slammed individual bosses who escaped prosecution for safety failings over the 2002 Potters Bar train crash, which claimed seven lives.

The individual bosses didn't work for Network Rail, they worked for Railtrack and their maintenance contractors, Jarvis.

Railtrack sounds like it's a company that might know something about facilitating the running of a railway. When in fact all it was really interested in was stock market maneuvering and extorting ever greater amounts of money from the public purse to maintain the rail network.

Railtrack couldn't do the job it was charged with within the agreed budget. That is, it couldn't work to the agreed budget and reward its executives and shareholders, so it cut corners.

The politicians and the regulators knew that Railtrack was useless but were slow to tell the murdering coupon clippers to get lost

Not, however, as slow as the legal system that took a staggering nine years to make a judgment on the Potters Bar case.

Could it be because the CPS ruled (October 2005) that the evidence did ''not provide a realistic prospect of conviction for an offence of gross negligence manslaughter against any individual or corporation.''

And because Transport Secretary Alistair Darling (December 2005) said he did not think an inquiry was necessary, appropriate or would shed any more light on the crash which was caused by faulty points.

(Historical Note: Companies have been open to manslaughter proceedings since 1965. Until then, English law abided by the principle laid out by a 17th century judge, who deemed:

"Companies have a soul to damn, but no body to kick".

Railtrack was a group of companies that owned the track, signalling, tunnels, bridges, level crossings and all but a handful of the stations of the British railway system from its formation in April 1994 until 2002.

It ran up £7.1bn of debt and lost the confidence of the public after safety failures which led to crashes including Hatfield. (See note below)

Railtrack was the bastard child of Tory rail privatization. The fatal accidents at Southall in 1997 and Ladbroke Grove in 1999 called into question the marvels of the fragmentation that privatization introduced into the rail system.

The not for profit but bonus hungry Network Rail took over from Railtrack in late 2002. The Labour Government of the time recoginised that more money was needed to do the job better and provided additional funding.

However, allowing the money grubbers to get their hands on the UK's rail infrastructure was and is a colossal mistake. The decades of skill, expertise and know-how of British Rail engineers has gone and it wont be coming back. And under the privatized regime, you definitely don't get what you pay for.

Hatfield disaster

In 2005, executives of Network Rail and maintenance company Balfour Beatty were cleared of individual charges over the October 2000 Hatfield rail crash, which claimed four lives.

However, after an eight-month Old Bailey trial in 2005, Balfour Beatty was fined £10m for breaching health and safety regulations (later reduced to £7.5m). Network Rail, was fined £3.5m.