Those following the controversy surrounding the Bank of England’s now-former deputy governor for markets and banking, Charlotte Hogg, could be forgiven for wondering if it’s all a storm in a teacup.
We’ve all made slip-ups when filling out forms – should somebody really be dragged over the coals for a silly administrative error? But as has become clear, Hogg’s failure to tell the Bank of her brother’s senior role at Barclays (which is regulated by her employer) is a serious issue indeed.
It’s not that there’s any suggestion of deception or deliberate impropriety. It was Hogg who wrote to the treasury select committee informing them of the mistake, and all parties seem to accept that it was a simple human error. But as somebody who helped draw up the rules she failed to adhere to, she has understandably attracted a great deal of flak for her screw-up. (The case has also attracted a disproportionate degree of attention because Hogg is the daughter of Sarah, Baroness Hogg, a member of the Financial Conduct Authority’s board and the former chair of 3i, and Douglas Hogg, the Viscount Hailsham, a former Tory MP and infamous claimer of moat maintenance expenses.)
The Bank of England’s integrity is paramount, and anything that damages that integrity also damages the reputation of the financial sector it oversees. Showing it takes issues like this seriously is especially important at a time when the City’s reputation is still so desperately in need of repair. Even now that Hogg has left, the Bank still faces difficult questions about the way it has handled the matter. If she had clung on, the negative attention would have been far worse.
Leaving is also the best move for Hogg’s own rep. She could have nipped it in the bud a little sooner, rather than waiting for the Treasury Select Committee to declare today that it ‘considers that her professional competence falls short of the very high standards required to fulfil the additional responsibilities of Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking.’ But by going now she avoids weeks or months of bad headlines and a lifetime of being recognised as ‘that Bank of England deputy governor who ignored the rules and got away with it’. For what it’s worth her resignation letter seems genuine, accepting total responsibility for the errors and avoiding the weaselling platitudes of many a public figure that falls on their sword.
‘I recognise that being sorry is not enough,’ the letter reads. ‘We, as public servants, should not merely meet but exceed the standards we expect of others. Failure to do so risks undermining the public’s trust in us, something we cannot let happen.’
Read more: How to fall on your sword
In public life there are ‘bad’ resignations and ‘good’ resignations, and this looks like it could fall into the latter camp, leaving open the possibility that Hogg could return to the Bank in a year or two once the dust has settled. Even if she doesn’t, it seems unlikely she’ll be without a high-flying finance role for long. If she’s really stuck, she can always ask her brother if there’s any work going at Barclays.
Top image source: Steve Daniels/Geograph