Christopher Fildes

What went wrong

I once asked an American friend to come and talk to the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation. He told them that he was against it. That put him ahead of his time, but Mervyn King agrees with him. In his decade as Governor of the Bank of England, he had seen what innovation

Gold’s eternal allure: only Gordon could resist it

Unhappy anniversary. Ten years ago the Chancellor of the day was congratulating himself audibly on a job well done, and in the vaults of the Bank of England grumpy porters were sticking labels on the ingots to indicate a change of ownership. This was Gordon Brown’s great clearance sale. He had chosen to auction more

Advice to the next Chancellor

The best moment in a chancellor’s life comes early. ‘Mr Deputy Speaker,’ he says, ‘we have examined the books. The position is grave. My first duty is to put the public finances in order.’ He then sends for the Hungarian middle-distance runner, Savij Kutz. This bogeyman, first identified by Alan Watkins, has been off the

A new bank from a very old stable

My racing correspondent, Captain Threadneedle, thought that banking and racing went together. He wanted Barclays to buy the Tote: perfect synergy, he thought, with matching systems, merged accounts, an overlapping customer base and a marketing slogan that would write itself: ‘You can bet on your overdraft with Barclays.’ He was, as we now know, before

The state of the railways

The Treasury thought the railways were in terminal decline. John Major’s government thought they were a political nuisance — vexed commuters meant lost voters. Privatisation would get the railways off the government’s back, and breaking them into 100 pieces would mean that if one piece was on strike, the other 99 would not be. In

The market’s favourite scapegoat

Oh, dear, what a setback. The usual suspects have slipped through the net. They will have to be locked up in the Financial Services Authority’s waterside fortress for 42 days, while the investigators try again to find some evidence. These suspects are the short sellers: everyone’s favourite scapegoat. They are accused of rocking the banks’

Global rules made in London? Brussels sniffs conspiracy

Christopher Fildes on international accounting standards   How gratifying. One set of rules for the whole world, and all of them springing from a fountainhead in Cannon Street, London EC4. There will have been no such display of global authority since the sun set on the British empire. Washington is warming to it. Brussels is restive.

Under starter’s orders

Christopher Fildes on the business dealings at Newbury Forget Cheltenham. That was just a warm-up. The big meeting next week is at Newbury, and it will have everything — fierce contests and driving finishes and bitter objections and stewards’ inquiries and prize-money running well into eight figures — everything, that is, except horses. Trooping into Newbury

The disappearing bezzle

My friend Herbie from the Last National Bank of Boot Hill understood about rogue traders. When another hapless bank owned up to losses ‘due to unauthorised trading’, he added: ‘They mean nobody authorised the guy to get it wrong.’ Now that a French trader called Jerome Kerviel has set a new record by losing £3.6

This party’s well and truly over

The old ones are the best, so allow me to remind you of Sibley’s Law. Giving capital to a bank (said that worldly banker, Nicholas Sibley) is like giving a gallon of beer to a drunk. You know what will become of it, but you can’t know which wall he will choose. By now we

Before and after the Bang

25 October 1986 My friend the stockjobber closed his book, turned his back on his pitch, and walked with me off the Stock Exchange floor, down Throgmorton Street and into Bill Bentley’s fish house. We raised our glasses of Montrachet to the last of the good old days. On Monday he must quit the floor