Peter Hoskin

April 2007: when Gordon ignored the warnings

April 2007: when Gordon ignored the warnings
Text settings

Typically great stuff from the Standard's Paul Waugh, who has delved into how G7 finance ministers - including one Chancellor Brown - were warned about the dangers of US subprime loans back in April 2007.  The guys sounding the alarm, in a briefing to Brown et al, were the hedge-funders Jim Chanos and Paul Singer, and they were left distinctly unimpressed by the response they received.  Here's a key passage from Paul's post:

"'We were completely and officially ignored,' said Chanos.

When asked if anyone present had subsequently had apologised for failing to heed the warnings, Mr Chanos replied:

'Two people, but they shall go nameless - and unfortunately, nobody still in power today.'

That means G Brown was definitely not one of those who apologised for not listening.

Chanos added that he had even named individual banks that were at risk.

'At that meeting I even disclosed that the entities I’m now putting up on the wall are leveraged 30 to one - you should worry about virtually all of them and you should be concerned, but I am betting with my clients’ money that there’s going to be a big problem here. So there was no doubt as to where I stood on the situation.'

I heard Chanos' dynamite quotes while listening to Robert Peston's excellent documentary on Radio 4 'Peston and the Money Men' this week. Pesto is clearly on holiday and no one at the Beeb has spotted the goldust buried in the programme.

You can hear the key section HERE (listen from 12m 40s)

Chanos also makes a robust defence of hedgies, pointing out that many pension funds now act as clients, and says there is no evidence at all that short-selling drove the banking collapse.

A bit of digging shows that on the day of the fateful G7 meeting - ironically it was Friday 13th - Gordon was still blithely confident that the global economy was going great guns.

We have always wanted the world economy to fly on more than one wing,' he said ahead of the meeting, claiming that China and India were doing ok so there was nothing to worry about.

He was also confident America's sub-prime mortgage crisis would be contained, arguing it was 'not a worldwide phenomenon'.

Ah, how wrong, wrong, wrong he was."

Given the "global problem which started in America" spin we've heard since, that "not a worldwide phenomeon" quote is a classic of its kind.  But why should something that was said a couple of years ago matter now?  Well, because it's yet another nail in Brown's "green shoots strategy": the more it appears that he didn't see what was coming, the less voters will be grateful to him for, ahem, leading us through the worst of it.