Well, they all get there in the end. Back in October we gave the reason why Barclays was so keen to avoid taking the HMG shilling:
"there’s [a] price to pay for the Darling Dole: banks must forswear promoting and funding ‘tax schemes’. Long the bane of the HMRC, banks have had whole divisions beavering away, on behalf of themselves and numerous clients, corporate and private alike, at wheezes to deprive the government of tax revenues. And none more so than Barclays, whose clever (and entirely legal) tax schemes, particularly on the VAT front, are a significant business line. Some of their wheezes – that trick of avoiding VAT on new computer systems, eh, lads ? – have sent the HMRC into apoplexy."
Finally, Vince Cable – keep up at the back there, boy – has received material from a ‘whistle-blower’ (strange terminology because it’s most probable that nothing illegal or technically improper has happened) detailing some of Barclays’ cunning plans, and almost everyone else has piled in.
Barclays has some champions in odd places – well, John Varley does anyway, here in the Grauniad, which is also rather coy (is this the best they can do ?) about what the HMG shilling may entail:
“Allowing the government to take a stake in the bank is likely to come with conditions attached. These could include forcing it to … comply with restrictions on its activities” (our emphasis)
But the FT’s excellent Alphaville blog pulls no punches, seemingly because they are miffed at Barclay’s PR efforts to thwart their reportage (and perhaps they didn't get as good a lunch as the Grauniad chaps). They give us
“a little story about Barclays, a bank that in our view could now unravel at frightening speed …all the time it has to continue spinning the line that its balance sheet is somehow less toxic than its rivals … State-interference must be avoided at all costs since that would cost Barclays its lucrative tax avoidance business and also cost Messrs Varley and Diamond their jobs”
What, honest John Varley ? Barclays unravelling at frightening speed ?
Say it ain't so !
UPDATE: it's all getting a bit heavy.
But where is Pesto ? Usually so quick off the mark, with so many banking stories, over so many many months ! What are we to infer ?
UPDATE 2: Alarm over, Pesto has posted ! (but he wants to hug the bankers - and no mention of the big B ...)
UPDATE 3: whisper it softly but they do say that the Grauniad's scoop is still available somewhere on the interweb
Monday, 16 March 2009