Tag Archives: Tony Groves

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From top: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Gardar Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; Tony Groves

We are all guilty of it, myself included, the institutionalised thinking bug. Almost 20 years ago, a Senior Banker asked me: “What’s the best thing about working for The Bank?

My ears burning red with embarrassment, I blurted out something about the Institution and the comfort of been under the umbrella, or some other clumsy metaphor (yes, clumsy metaphors are my speciality) to which the Manager nodded and smiled.

After I’d finished waffling he gave me one of the best bits of advice I have ever got in my life.

Pushing a big silver and black stapler towards me he said:

“That’s bullshit Tony, and you know it. Do you see that stapler? Pretend that stapler is your sales targets. Well, we’ll have a meeting about them, set goals and conduct a SWOT analysis to help get those goals.

Next year the same stapler is targets on mortgages and we’ll have a brainstorming session, set stretch targets and get a Sales Guru to give us a course on achieving them.

Then the next year the stapler is a Pension Growth target. We’ll say stuff like ‘proactive’ and ‘local marketing planning’. At the end of the day, Tony, after all these years, it’s the same f@cking stapler.

We move it around, reset the goal and make up new buzzwords, but unless you’re happy pushing the same stapler around then you’re in the wrong game.”

I thought of this again last week when I heard the Garda Commissioner, who has spent €93,000 in the Communications Clinic using management speak/ Pronespeak. I thought of it again when I heard a Justice Minister, who has spent €11,000 in the Communications Clinic, using the words of deflection and blame-throwing.

Someone asked me ‘why doesn’t anybody yell out stop?’. Well in every Institution the staff take their lead from their bosses. Tone from the top and if the boss can imagine/fabricate stories and then simply say Mea Culpa and shimmy away unscathed, then why can’t the others say things like “I’m on a journey” and walk away similarly?

We must respect the Institutions of Government, Justice and an Garda. Never mind the reality that these Institutions are disrespecting the very people they were established to protect. I’d wager more people believe in the Tooth Fairy than in the Institutions of the State.

Every year, as part of my real job, I have to complete an Ethics course. Failure to do so would mean I’d lose my Financial Designations and thus my ability to work. No amount of money to the Communications Clinic could fix that.

But perhaps if I re-designated myself an Institute

There’s a line in a Paul Simon song, Gumboots; it goes, “Why don’t we get together and call ourselves an Institute?” It can’t really be that simple, can it? It can and it is. The Iona Institute, The Economic Social and Research Institute, The Hibernia Forum, The Irish Tax Institute are but a few users of the trick.

You get a few lads together who have similar worldviews, call yourself a Think Tank or an Institute and you get an invite to every television panel show.

Nobody introduces an ESRI reports by informing viewers that they are funded by the government, which they are. Nobody likes to suggest that he who pays the piper, calls the tune. Nope, we wouldn’t want to question the Institutions.

Someone recently sent me the old Simpsons sugar clip. You know the one, first you get the sugar, then you get power, then you get the women!

In Ireland, first you pick your stapler, then you call it an Institute, then you get the power, then you get Terry Prone to cover up that it’s just a f@cking stapler.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

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From top: Always angry’ Labour TD Alan Kelly; Tony Groves

Our corporate, political and media landscape is awash with meaningless phrases.

Tony Groves writes:

Everything, as they say, has its place. Everything has its part to play. Everything matters. Except when it doesn’t matter. Not really.

Recently the Daily Mail got in “trouble” for the front page sexism of its “Legs-it” headline. But it’s not that long ago that Matt Cooper was engaged in a little bit of casual sexism in the Daily Mail‘s Irish equivalent.

He derided Mary Lou McDonald for her dress sense and said she was “every bit as dangerous as Donald Trump”. I don’t recall an other Irish newspapers calling for apologies in the same way as the UK papers did for Teresa May, do you?

So sometimes things matter and sometimes they don’t. What the qualifying criteria are for such things, I don’t know.

There is a written language that we all can read, but none of us can really understand. That is to say, we understand the individual words, but they never actually add up to a meaningful sentence.

Our corporate, political and media landscape is awash with these phrases. I’ve bastardised some of my favourites below. They aren’t quiet oxymorons, but they are always taking us for morons.

Roots and branches are always reviewed. Failures are always systemic. Errors are always clerical. Exercises are always scoping. Pride is always resorted. And Noirin is always defiant.

Talks are always collapsing. Unions are always greedy. Management is always unreasonable. Efficiencies are always seeking. Brendan Ogle is always a Firebrand. Strikes are always wildcat. And Shane Ross is always missing.

Celebrity tweets are always hilarious. Twitter is always in meltdown. Trolls are always vicious. Chat is always snapping. Memes are always trending. And you always believe what you won’t believe happened next.

Rivals are always in the long grass. Knives are always out. Sources are always close to. Ministerial briefs are always getting handled. And Gerry is always denying he was ever a member of.

Plans are always strategic. Thinking is always blue sky. Jobs are always announced a few times. Corporation Tax Rates are always off the table. Brussels is always threatening fines. And Brian Hayes is always on your telly.

The centre must always be held. Politics must always be new. Polls must always be telling. The Left must always be Loony. The Right must always be Centrist. And Mick Martin is always the most popular leader, but not populist.

Crisis Talks are always crunching. Force is always excessive. Protesters are always like ISIS. Billions must always be wasted. Quango’s must always be re-branded. And Alan Kelly is always angry.

Immigration is always mass. Public Meetings are always Town halls. Citizens are always Assembling. Inquiries are always commissioned. And Paul Murphy is always the Posh Trot.

Speakers are always key. Doctors are always spinning. The recovery, like Enda, is always going. Bubbles are always bursting. Terry Prone is always paid. And Denis O’Brien is always REDACTED.

The middle is always squeezed. Vultures are always swooping. Confidence is always protected. NAMA is always defended. And Michael Noonan is always rebutting.

Events are always tragic. Tragedies are always avoidable Eulogies are always heartbreaking. Oliver Callan is always spot on.

Migrants are always economic. Refugees are always a significant risk. Power is always having truth spoken to it. Appeals are always falling on deaf ears. Europe is always our friend. And RTÉ is always biased according to both sides of the debate.

Articles are always being triggered. Borders are always porous. Market contagion is always spreading. Europe is always our enemy. The Union is always breaking. And no deal is always better than a bad deal?

There’s hundreds more of these phrases. They fill empty air with empty words. None of them speak of real Accountability or actual Implementation. They are cloaking phrases. Used to cloak the unaccountable and a lack of effort.

But it’s not all bad. At least there’s always Sean Moncrieff, weekdays between 2 and 4, always asking interesting questions…

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

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From top, Houses under the hammer in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Tony Groves

We don’t have a deficit of land. We have a deficit of vision and we are walking into another bubble.

Tony Groves writes

Cicero warned, “The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history”.

Today we have a media surprised and faux-outraged that property prices are growing at Bubble levels. It’s as if this just happened today. It’s as if we need to wait to hear from Daft.ie in order to know that our dysfunctional property market is dysfunctional!

In late 2016, the Central Bank Briefing Report confirmed nearly 20% of Mortgages were not in line with their Rules. Not only were they not compliant, many of these were 100% Loan to Value Mortgages.

In November 2016, Pepper Ireland, announced they were entering the Irish Mortgage Market. The government hailed this as proof that their “strategy” of not having a mortgage strategy was working.

Pepper is a Subprime Lender. It will lend to people who cannot meet the (already 20% broken) Central Bank Rules. Pepper will charge a premium for the additional risk. Then, Pepper will repatriate over-inflated profits to its Vulture Fund Overlord.

In short, this added competition is not going to drive down the highest mortgage rates in the EU. It will actually lift our blended rate nationally. This will trigger the debt bundling that was the main driver of the Mid 2005 Mortgage Switcher Market.

People, under financial pressure, will bundle short term debt with their mortgage and think they are better off. Short term gain for long term pain. This is where we are going. Back to the Future…

In January the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017. Rating Middle-Income Housing Affordability, was published.

A riveting title, it’s sure to be a bestseller. Only it should be. It should be compulsory reading for our Politicians, our Planners and anyone who gives a damn about inequality.

What this body of real experts (as opposed to the experts who brought us Irish Water) do is work out how affordable is a house, based on dividing the average price by the average wage.

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The good news for Ireland is that we currently have zero Severely Unaffordable housing markets. Great news, right…

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The bad news for Ireland is that we are fast on our way to getting there…

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Look at the warning above. Dublin has gone from Moderately Unaffordable 3.3, to a Seriously Unaffordable 4.7, in less than 5 years.

As I type we are probably tipping over into the Severely Unaffordable zone of 5.1 or over. Think this is only a Dublin problem, think again. Galway and Cork are rapidly climbing the charts.

Without denigrating Cicero, I refuse to believe that we can’t learn anything from history. History teaches us that a malfunctioning Land market breeds inequality. Inequality means revolution.

Blame becomes the currency and it’s spent on creating division and fear. Elites, deriding the rise of Populism have only themselves to blame.

Ireland has a chance to avoid this “fear of the other” and blame-throwing culture. We had an Unaffordable Score of 6 at the top of the Celtic Tiger insanity. If we don’t act urgently, we will return to that level.

Remember these facts when you hear developers aren’t building because of low profits. How can profits be too low and Unaffordability so high?

Remember these facts when trying to reconcile the Governments Housing Plan has less ambition towards building Social Houses than we had in the darkest days of the Irish Economy.

These are facts; don’t listen to the alternative facts, post-truths or fake news. A lie is a lie is a lie. We don’t have a deficit of Land. We have a deficit of vision.

Dublin has over 60 hectares of vacant land. We don’t need incentives for developers; the only incentive for building we need is the FACT that we are rapidly headed back to Property Bubble Land. And Bubbles Burst.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. If we allow this tragedy to happen again, then the joke will be on all of us.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Irish House Price Report Q1 2017 (Daft)

Rollingnews

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From top: Today’s Independent; Tony Groves

On the worst reactions to the Bus Éireann strike escalation….

Tony Groves writes:

Bus Éireann is a loss making business. Bus Éireann also receives the lowest State Subvention of the 27 EU Member States. The losses are estimated to be in the region of €8,000,000. Every day the strike continues the situation becomes even more precarious.

RTÉ, the State broadcaster that is reporting on the strikes (perhaps unfairly?) from the point of view of the disadvantaged commuter, is also loss making. They recently floated a kite looking to double the licence fee. Their losses are estimated to be in the region of €20,000,000.

What RTÉ is doing is not hypocritical, it is maybe myopic and certainly lacking self-awareness.

Independent News & Media, the largest media group in the country, is controlled by it’s major shareholder, Billionaire, Tax Exile Denis O’Brien.

INM received debt write downs of €140,000,000. This write down was at least part done by several State owned banks. This write down came from taxpayers. A billionaire tax exile got a debt write down.

INM has no moral authority when it comes to campaigning for taxpayers.

The Bus Éireann reporting is an example of selective outrage and self-delusion. Certainly things aren’t great at the Transport provider. But people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

At least not without sweeping up their own mess first.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Earlier: Lucky For Some

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 Tony Groves (above) ponders why we don’t dream bigger

Our ‘Utopian vision’ isn’t too Utopian.

It isn’t Utopian enough.

Tony Groves writes:

The problem with your Utopian vision is that it’s just too Utopian” – this was said to me last year by a friend in response to one of my “loony left” suggestions around tackling inequality. My idea was around food poverty.

I argued that in a country that boasts of being able to produce enough food to “feed 35 million people and this will rise to 50 million in 2020″ that nobody should ever go hungry. I felt that the state should provide a calorific quota per head to ensure this.

I was taken aback by the scorn my suggestion received and a little intimidated by the counterargument of “pragmatism”, “free markets” and cheesy lines about moral hazard. I began to question my idealist ideology; was it too Utopian to not want kids going to school hungry?

I went back to the drawing board. I looked into my free market education and I realised that it wasn’t me who was being too Utopian, it was my friend who was being unambitious. A quick scan of the real world told me I wasn’t alone.

Every year on the excellent Freakonomics  podcast, they spend a couple of minutes asking listeners to donate to the show. Every year, Professor of Economics Steven Levitt chuckles at the absurdity of asking people to pay for what they already get for free. Every year, Freakonomics Coauthor Stephen Dubner does it anyway. Every year they exceed their target.

Another Economic Professor Steve Keen, recently spoke about the loss of “time and freedom for original thinkers”. His solution is to cut the ties of “academic bureaucratic controls” and crowdfund his work. In return he will deliver free “non orthodox economics” lectures, blog posts and more. He’s well on his way and you can support Steve here.

Even at home, the Second Captains Sports podcast has gone to a crowdfunding model and it’s working. They are not tied agents of an orthodox media outlet. Whether they know it our not, they’re part of the new non orthodoxy.

None of this is too Utopian. Change is a constant. Denying this and pursuing the same pathways that give us the same boom and bust cycles is crazy.  

Governments want to “Recession Proof” the economy? I want to idiot proof my government. The last time I checked we don’t live in an economy, we live in a society. Governments should want to Recession Proof from the people up, not the Banks down.

A crazy idea like stopping food poverty isn’t that crazy at all. It’s a recession stopper. A Basic Income would create a universal standard of living that would replace the “welfare state” model AND save the state money.

Look at the 1970’s Seattle Experiment and Canadian Experiment. In both cases people became richer, local economies grew, education standards rose, crime fell and health spending decreased by over 8%. Fun digression: the Seattle Experiment was abandoned because an incorrect finding was that Basic Income increased the Divorce Rate. Forget for a minute that this was untrue and think on the reasoning. We couldn’t have a Universal Basic Income because Women might gain too much independence. Long live the Patriarchy!

We are stuck with old definitions and old ideas. Government say the “centre must hold”, without mentioning that what they’re holding on to is already is an anchor keeping progress back.

Warning signs of repeating past mistakes are ignored in favour of Leo vs Simon tittle tattle. Global Stock Markets grew for 109 consecutive days recently, a record unseen since the last crash. At home bubbles are blowing on the winds of Leprechaun Economic Data. The ESRI has warned that a a construction boom  could overheat the economy.

Someone call Eddie Hobbs, we need a Bulgarian Holiday Home Expo. Get Jim Power on the phone, we’re going to need a Soft Landing.

The word Utopia, from the Greek word Eutopia, has two meanings; good place and nowhere. I’d today argue that my Utopian vision wasn’t too Utopian. It wasn’t Utopian enough. I’d rather be on the way to a good place, but I think we are going nowhere.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

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From top: Newstalk and INM logo; Tony Groves

You have to ask yourself that if I wanted to sell something to myself, for more than it’s worth, in order to pay myself from the over-inflated price, would that be okay with the Companies Act?

Tony Groves writes:

Back in the Halcyon Days of the Celtic Tiger, I remember coming across a particularly complex (and not a little brilliant) version of the common practise of Cheque Kiting.

Cheque Kiting, for those of you unfamiliar, is where an individual has two (or more) accounts in different banks. He writes a cheque to himself (this first cheque is called the kite) from Bank A and lodges it into Bank B.

The following day (taking advantage of Bank B’s lax clearing system) writes a cheque to himself from Bank B and lodges it to Bank A.

These artificial funds are then lodged; allowing the first cheque to clear. The cycle then repeats, typically escalating the amounts until he is either caught, cleans out the accounts and runs, or lodges legitimate funds to cover the Kite.

The case I came across was based on the circular kite model, but due to the involvement of several individuals (over 10) and spread across every retail bank in the country at that time it was not easily discovered.

The seemingly reasonable monies involved in the cheques, the various clearing cycles of the banks and the fact that there was several people involved made detection next to impossible for any one bank. It really was well constructed and went on for months.

When the fraud was eventually spotted (due to address irregularities) and the kites crashed to earth, the Banks had been taken for several thousand euro. It really was a significant amount of money and I’m not sure any of the participants were ever brought to justice.

I recall seeing the last transactions on one accounts involved; it was a Laser Card purchase in Dublin Airport. So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu…

When I read earlier how Independent News and Media Chief Executive Robert Pitt had made a Protected Disclosure regarding Denis O’Brien’s attempts to sell a company he owns (Newstalk, part of his Communicorp empire) to a Company (Independent News & Media) where he is the major shareholder, I had a flashback.

We know very little about the deal. But I suspect a Protected Disclosure wasn’t made lightly.

Whatever was in the Disclosure seems to have triggered the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s involvement.

It is also well known that the two parties could not agree on the price, with INM wanting to pay less than Communicorp are asking for.

We also understand from reports that if the higher price had been be agreed, Denis O’Brien stood to receive a “significant payout”.

I don’t want to go into the individuals involved and their links with Mr O’Brien, they are available here.

But I do wonder about company law, specifically the laws around conflicts of interest and the Fitness & Probity Standards.

You have to ask yourself that if I wanted to sell something to myself, for more than it’s worth, in order to pay myself from the over-inflated price, would that be okay with the Companies Act?

Even if it is legal, are the conflicts of interest not such that it would call into question individual’s fitness to operate public broadcasting licences?  I don’t know. Nobody is really saying what did or did not nearly happen.

We know there was a falling out. We hear rumours of resignations. None of it looks good from a Corporate Responsibility viewpoint. Particularly given Denis O’Brien’s ability to have a “chilling effect” on democracy.

There are many kites floating out in the air here. Like all complex kites the cords become tangled and it’s difficult to know who caused the entire thing to crash to earth. I still laugh at the audacity of the Cheque Kite I was caught out by.

I look regularly agog at the audacity of Denis O’Brien, none more so than in his attempt to sell his company to his other company. What has all this got to do with Cheque Kiting? Maybe nothing; it just makes you think, doesn’t it…

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

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From top: Enda Kenny with Donald Trump in The White House on March 16; Tony Groves

Once upon a time…

…the boy king realised he need never have to tell the truth again.

Tony Groves writes:

A long time ago, in a village far, far away a boy was creating havoc. He was lashing out at the villagers, calling them All Ireland Champion Whingers and telling fantastical tales of adventures that never happened. The villagers, fed up of the Boy Who Cried 2 Pints, sent the lad to bed with no supper.

But the boy was not to be stopped. Deciding to run away, he put on his father’s suit and climbed aboard a small boat to the mysterious island known as Dáiland. As well as people similar to those in the village the island of Dáiland was filled with malicious Beasts known as Politicians. The boy, trying to find his place, spent years ducking and dodging them.

Slowly, he grew more confident. He recalled the tale of the Man With 2 Pints and how he’d tricked some of the villagers. So he began to tell even taller tales.

Extravagant stories and preposterous claims were told to the Beasts over and over. He spoke to them of a place where everything was wonderful that he called Retrospective Recapitalisation Land.

He spun fables of his feats of daring-do; including one about how he faced down the Evil Hordes looking to carry away all the ATMs in Dáiland. The boy convinced the Politicians to make him their king with promises of things he called Allowances and Unvouched Expenses.

As king, the boy ordered the Politicians do to all sorts of wild and crazy things. He told them the more they break things the better the Recovery will be.

The Political Beasts, so excited by the freedom of not having to tell the truth anymore, went stomping all over the island. Kicking Austerity Dust into the faces of the inhabitants and telling them it’s part of Keeping the Recovery Going.

The people, once they’d spat the Austerity Dust out of their mouths, weren’t pleased. They set about organising and challenging the Political Beasts. The Beasts, worried that their party might be cut short, turned on the boy king. But he was ready for them, he knew the best way to cover up a lie was to tell an even bigger lie.

So the boy king told the Beasts that he was following orders from a higher power, which he called “The Troika”. He said he’d gladly step aside and let one of the Beasts take over, but he warned them that The Troika eat Beasts for breakfast! Needless to say, the Beasts scurried back all over Dáiland and told the inhabitants of The Troika and how they’d better not make any more trouble, for all their sake’s.

The boy king, so happy that his lies had gone unchallenged went back to partying. He even came up with a way to handle the occasional misstep. Whenever a Beast or an Islander would step out of line, the boy king would simply have them locked up in an Inquiry. And yet…

And yet the boy king felt incomplete. No amount of records set, achievements or accomplishments could fill the hollow in his heart.

The boy king, if he had the ability to tell the truth, would have admitted that he would never truly be happy in the knowledge that a village far, far away is still missing its idiot.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

Glossary Dictionary Definitione single word close up

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From top: Glossary: Tony Groves

Seek Stability?

Hate Populism?

Read on.

Tony Groves writes:

When The Irish Times published a glossary of Alt-Right terms my echo chamber lost its mind. When I spewed my badly punctuated thoughts on NAMA on these pages I was grammatically held bang to rights.

Words, even in this text speak era, still hold value. Words still have power and given the Alt-Right got its own glossary; I thought I’d try my hand at doing a Chumocracy Glossary. I should probably start with Chumocracy.

Chumocracy: A system of governance run by and for the Arms of the State and their Chums. I’d love to say I created this phrase, but I stole it from someone referring to the Tory Toff Infighting around the time of the Brexit campaign. Eamon Dunphy refers to it as Official Ireland, but I think Chumocracy has a more onomatopoeic flow.

Accountability: A situation where a Chumocracy member is forced to issue a statement of deep regret, or a statement refuting findings against them. Once complete the contrite individual can return their snout to the trough, or pull the chord on a massive golden parachute pension.

Pronespeak: A series of phrases that are seemingly benign, but are actually malignant tumours on the body politic .For example: “not aware of, or privy to” and the old chestnut “let me just be clear”. These phrases rarely mean what they say and quite often they mean the exact opposite.

Populism: A smear used by Chumocracy members to describe anybody outside their groupthink bubble. Frequently thrown at an individual who has the temerity to question the morality of putting free (rigged) market ideology ahead of social crises.

Complex Issue: A term used to explain away the fact that those in power have failed to do anything about a particular issue right up until six hours before it becomes an RTÉ Prime Time Special. Usually the nodding heads, not wanting to be seen to be stupid, nod along and accept this explanation. Sure haven’t the government agreed to set up a…

Commission of Inquiry: A method of placating public outcry against injustices that are (more often than not) within the remit of the State to address, but might result in embarrassment for a Chumocracy member; see Accountability.

Stability: The state of being out of your depth and screwing up at your job, while simultaneously claiming that you are a safe pair of hands. For example  Alan Kelly and Simon Coveney brought Stability to the homelessness crisis.

Political Correspondent: A name used for many Journalists who allow politicians to make false or misleading claims (like “I refute” and “I was unaware of”) and often use their own type of Pronespeak, like “a source close to X said” or “a senior party member told me”, thus removing Accountability (see above).

Advice of the Attorney General: A phrase which gives the user a form of diplomatic immunity against charges of idiocy; particularly useful when trying to turn a simple matter into a Complex Issue.

Speaking Truth to Power: A Leadership Skill of standing up to the EU Commission when defending the Apple Tax decision, while at the same time prostrating oneself in front of the EU Commission when talking about Irish Water.

Independent News & Media: see Pronespeak.

Communicorp: See above.

Mea Culpa: It means No Worries For The Rest Of Your Days.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

31/1/2017 Mmid-term review of Capital Plan. Pictured are Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, TD and Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, TD as they arrive at the media briefing about the approach that will be taken to the mid-term review of the Capital Plan, ‘Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021’, which was published in September 2015. Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

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From top: Minister for Finance Michael Noonan; Tony Groves

In the financial world, there are rules – lots of them.

Many of them are arbitrary, some are helpful and then there are a handful of ones that are plain old common sense.

Tony Groves writes:

There’s a famous (or should that be infamous) episode of barbarity carried out against the Roman Empire in 88BC, known as the Asiatic Vespers.

The people of Asia Minor, fed up of Roman rules, Roman taxes and Roman hegemony, rose up violently. In just one day, the Roman population across Asia Minor was slaughtered; it’s estimated between 80,000 – 150,000 people were killed. This was a scrupulously prepared and viciously executed plan.

The fallout of which led to a series of wars that would last decades and pile countless more bodies on to the fire. Nonetheless, the Asiatic Vespers stand as a ruthless warning from history. A government (Rome was still a Republic) that has lost its legitimacy has lost its mandate to govern.

This week we’ve seen, for the first time in its history, the Public Accounts Committee have submitted findings supported by the majority and not unanimously.

This is a significant break of protocol and not just because the disagreement was over the wording about the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and his handling (or alleged mishandling) of the Project Eagle case.

It was significant because it was part of another underlying trend at the hypocritical heart of Irish politics. A secret 11th commandment not included in the Bible; Thou shalt do as we say, but thou shalt not do as we do.

You see, we’ve been lectured for weeks, whether by Pat Kenny calling us thick, or Alan Kelly calling us populists, or Simon Coveney saying something. I can never remember what Simon says…

Anyway, apparently we have to pay water charges or we risk EU fines. We had to have austerity because we all partied. We have to have accept families in hotels because the banks’ balance sheets are still vulnerable. So on and so forth.

In the financial world, there are rules, lots of them and, contrary to popular opinion, these rules are overseen by a regulator. Many of these rules are arbitrary, some are helpful and then there are a handful of ones that are plain old common sense.

One such common sense rule relates to financial dealings with Politically Exposed Persons, or PEP’s.

In dealing with the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive there are different criteria, based on the individual/entity and the service provided.

They roughly fall under three headings: Simplified Due Diligence, Standard Due Diligence and Enhanced Due Diligence. A voucher for a Macari’s Snack Box to the first person who correctly guesses which category politicians fall into.

Michael Noonan made a bad judgement call in meeting Cerberus the day before the sale of Project Eagle. This sale has resulted in a loss to the State in the range of €220 million. I’m not going to rake over the coals of this toxic fire sale. You can do that here and here.

I am going to point out that a Department of Finance, that is doing its job, might look into the EU Anti-Money Laundering Act. I’m going to guess that they’d discover that a meeting with the Minister for Finance is a meeting with a Politically Exposed Person.

I’d then be fairly certain that they would see this same meeting is covered under the Enhanced Due Diligence Regulations.

Finally, I’d hope they might realise that breaches (if discovered) of these regulations can be punished with sanctions and or fines. The fines can be of “up to €5 million in the case of natural persons, and fines of up to twice the amount of any profits gained or losses avoided”.

I’m a banker, so my sums aren’t great, but I reckon fines of up to twice the loss (as confirmed by the Comptroller & Auditor General) could amount to €440 million.

Do I think a Department of Finance that has it’s head buried in the sand is looking into this? Probably not.

Do I believe a Government that is busy trying to delegitimise even the wording of a mildly critical report into this debacle, is going to look for our money back? I’m not holding my breath.

It does make me think of the Asiatic Vespers and how fed up people were of hearing “Do as we say, don’t do as we do”. I’m fed up, too – are you?

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

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Swedish design icon, the Billy Bookcase; Tony Groves

 

IKEA and Irish democracy.

A theory.

Tony Groves writes:

You often see them on a Monday morning between July and September. Mindless zombies pushing trollies filled with cushions they don’t need and more candles than a Vampire Movie.

Dry mouthed and bleary eyed, they seem to sway under the fluorescent lights. Poor lost souls desperately searching for the way out.

I refer to the GAA supporter, who after spending his Sunday at Croke Park, is made complete his act contrition in the aisles and pallet bays of IKEA.

They’re a bit hungover and remorseful, wondering if anyone can ever beat Dublin (they can’t) and their defences are as easily breached as the Boys in Blue hand-passing their way to goal.

These fallen heroes, when they’d done their Cost Benefit Analysis of the trip to Dublin, hadn’t factored in the cost per square foot of car boot capacity.

Rookie mistake.

“Sure doesn’t everything in IKEA come flat-pack and couldn’t our Una do with a new desk and aren’t those Billy Bookcases great value altogether. Look it, the more you spend the more you save.”

The Billy Bookcase really should be an Irish invention, rather than a Swedish icon. I mean, its original design was sketched on the back of a napkin, it’s inventors were obsessed with making things easier and more transportable. The secret of their success was making the hard labour an issue for the purchaser.

Today there’s over 60 million Billy Bookcases in the world, that’s nearly 1 for every 100 people on the planet. Every 3 seconds a new Billy Bookcase is born. Staff that work in the plant in Southern Sweden never touch a piece of furniture. The machines are in charge.

Now consider the Irish Inquiry Conveyor-belt for a moment. The terms of reference are often sketched on the back of cigarette packets and later fleshed out in politically advantageous ways. The “inventors” are obsessed with making their lives easier and transporting out of the way any difficult issue or potential blockage in the path of the gravy train machine.

Today there are more Inquiries, Investigations by Retired Judges, Citizens Assemblies, Expert Review Panels, Public Tribunals, Water Committees, Consultants Reports, Task Forces of Investigation and Public Consultation Processes than pieces of Legislation passed in the Dáil.

Are these instruments of obfuscation more ubiquitous than the Billy Bookcase? Probably not, but it certainly feels like there’s one born every 3 seconds and not unlike the Billy Bookcase, these “inquiries” are delivered unmade and it is left up to the public to put the pieces together.

Flat Pack Democracy, Irish Style. Thank you for shopping at IKEA.

Tony Groves is a full-time Financial Consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the Financial Industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Pic: Wikipedia