UKFI gets a kicking - and Rock sinks to £1.4bn loss

The mandarins in charge of our bank investments didn't impress the Treasury Select Committee this morning...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

John Kingman and Glen Moreno of UK Financial Investments were hammered this morning by the MPs on the Committee, after failing to bring along bonus details of the banks they’re involved with. Chairman John McFall said it was ‘scandalous’ and ‘highly discourteous’ that they couldn’t produce the numbers – despite being specifically asked to do so last Friday. But although the mandarins had to squirm a bit, the MPs failed to land a killer blow over Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension fiasco…

Kingman infuriated the committee straight away, not only by failing to provide the requisite bonus details (the chairman wanted to know how many bankers got a bonus of more than £100,000, and was clearly irate that he’d been ignored) but also by his smug and casual manner – he didn’t really proffer much of an apology, even after his lack of one was highlighted. Clearly it’s not just the upper echelons of Government that shy away from admitting mistakes (he even claimed the failure of the tripartite regulation system was nothing to do with the Treasury either – are you spotting a theme yet?)

Speaking of which, Kingman was also quick to absolve the Treasury of any responsibility for Sir Fred’s pension pot, blaming the entire thing on RBS and insisting the Government only found out a fortnight ago.  This turned the MPs’ fire on Lord Myners, who clearly had some inkling back in October. Kingman defended him to the hilt – but also pointed out that RBS could have avoided the pension payouts by sacking Sir Fred in exchange for a year’s pay, an option that Myners doesn’t seem to have explored. ‘It’s not obvious to me that it was obvious,’ Kingman blathered unhelpfully.

Since he’s expecting the Government to hold onto its RBS investment for at least three to five years (he’s against full nationalisation, since this would delay the exit process even further), Kingman is likely to face the Committee a few more times yet to defend his actions. Hopefully he’ll bother to do his homework next time round (although it would be fun to watch the fireworks if he doesn't).

Also this morning, taxpayer-owned Northern Rock shocked absolutely nobody by reporting a loss of £1.4bn for 2008. On the one hand, the bank has made ‘good progress’ in paying back taxpayers’ money – it’s already reduced its £27bn loan to less than £9bn. However, nearly 3% of its mortgage holders are now behind on their repayments, while its repossession rate was up 63%. So you might be forgiven for wondering why on earth it’s just decided to boost mortgage lending by £14bn in the next two years...

In today's bulletin:
UKFI gets a kicking - and Rock sinks to £1.4bn loss
Terra Firma hands back £70m after EMI slump
Doing business in the family way
Denise Kingsmill: Tone comes from the top
Route to the Top: Eight ways to manage change

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