Tag Archives: Crime

All that Glitters is not Gadd…………………

Good to see Gary Glitter  knocking up those airmiles. He should have enough for a laptop by now.

Why the slavering media pack? Why the interest?

There are two main streams of opinion about Glitter’s unfortunate predicament:

1. “He’s served his time , paid his debt  to society so leave him alone.”

2. “Cut his bollocks off.”

He is a seedy old man who has always been known as a bit of a perv and he has (literally) screwed his life up.

There is a chance that he is deriving some sort of twisted pleasure from  the attention that we are giving him. Difficult and illogical as it may seem – our indifference would probably hurt him more than anything.

We need not continue to treat him like a celebrity. We should treat him like something that you might find sticking to the sole of your boot after a walk across the common.

Let’s ignore him and let the law keep a watchful eye.

We will always have Option 2 (above).

p.s. I know that it’s “GLISTERS” and not Glitters ( headline above)  but it was either that or “Nonce upon a Thai. Mmmmmm”.  

Sorry.

Blame the NINJAS

ninja.jpg Would you lend money to this man? They did in the States!  Many years ago, life was very simple in the financial services environment.

Banks provided somewhere for you to keep your money. You could take it out of your account by means of a cheque-book or by presenting a savings book at the bank counter and withdrawing cash. Banks also provided small unsecured loans so that you could, for instance, buy a set of curtains, fridge or anything else that you needed.

Building Societies were started very humbly by a collection of individuals clubbing together and saving a certain amount of money each month until there was enough in their fund to buy or build a house. They then drew lots and one of them had the house. Simple. The lucky person then paid interest back to the Building Society for the money that he had been lent. They then repeated the process until they all had a house. Soon  they realised that it would speed things up considerably if they accepted savings from outsiders who did not necessarily want a house but who were looking for a home for their savings. Eventually they created  accounts called Paid-up share accounts, usually of two types: One paid interest monthly and the other added interest twice yearly. There was a distinction between “INVESTORS (who were share-holders of the Building Society)” and “DEPOSITORS”. The depositors were not members or share-holders of the Society and usually were paid about 0.25% less in annual interest. For that privilege, they were first in the queue in the event of a run on the Society’s funds but they had no voting rights in any of the Society’s affairs.

Up until about 25 years ago, mortgages were of two types – either gross of tax or net of tax. The Building Societies operated on roughly a 4% margin, which was the difference between what they paid their investors and what they charged their mortgagors.

Insurance companies insured people’s lives. A small subscription ( or premium)  was paid regularly into a fund by many individuals. If one of them died, the company would pay out a pre-determined sum of money to his family from the accumulated fund.

So we had three venerable institutions, each fulfilling a different but necessary function.

  • 1. The Bank provided a home for our short-term money, savings accounts and short-term loans.
  • 2. The Building Society provided medium to long-term savings and enabled you to borrow money which was specifically for the purchase of a house.
  • 3. The Insurance company provided you and your family with “peace of mind”, should anything happen to you.

Lending institutions always claimed that they borrowed “short” and lent “long”. For instance, they took (or borrowed) money from investors for what was described as “short term” because investors could withdraw their money whenever they wanted to.

At one time they did lend “long” because mortgages used to be for a term of 20 or 25 years.

That tradition still remains, e.g. the Mortgage Deed that we sign is usually for a period of 25 years, although the average ACTUAL length of mortgage is between 6-7 years and falling  as people  take say,  a 2-3 year  fixed-rate mortgage and then move it after the end of the fixed term.

Nowadays, banks borrow “short” and lend “short”.

Then it all changed. The three institutions which had for many years stood at their own  apex of the financial  triangle, all met in the middle

The Banks decided that they wanted to do what Building Bocieties did  and they entered the mortgage market. They thought that they might as well sell insurance as well and that way they could supply an individual with the whole package.

The Building Societies realised that a large slice of their livelihood would soon be missing so eventually, after much lobbying, they were allowed to become banks and started issuing chequebooks and arranging unsecured loans and also began selling insurance.

The Insurance companies also decided that they could supply mortgages, loans and all manner of things – including investment products. The sort of service that stockbrokers used to supply.

So we had three institutions who within a very short space of time had just about become indistinguishable.

However, there was a fourth institution which was keeping a watching brief. That was the part of the financial services industry which dealt in stocks and shares. Imagine how they felt when suddenly everyone else was providing investment advice and facilities for anyone to invest on the stock market. They decided to have a look at mortgages.

In 1982, two traders at Salomon Brothers in the USA had an idea which was to change the face of lending and which eventually led to what we used to call a Credit Squeeze but which we now refer to as a Credit Crunch. (Don’t ask).

Properties in mortgage to a bank of building society represented the bulk of that institution’s assets. A house is a disposable asset, it pays a dividend to the lending institution by way of interest some of which can be passed on to the investors but nevertheless, a house is not an asset which can be realised easily to provide capital for more lending.

Lew Ranieri and John Meriwether of Salomon Brothers developed the concept of securitisation. 

What if a lender were to lump his mortgages together, package them up as a sort of fund with a definite value? That “fund” or “bond” would  produce an income through mortgage repayments so it was a very attractive instrument.

On the face of it, they had capital appreciation as well as an income. What could go wrong?

Just two things: Bad lending and a fall in property values.

An unscrupulous lender could easily buy in some money,  lend it  to anyone, knowing that there was little likelihood of the money being repaid. He could then package all the mortgages together  (securitise them) and then sell them off as a viable investment.

You may be familiar with the concept of NINJA  lending: (No Income, No Job or Assets). Billions was lent to NINJAS in the USA in the full knowledge that once securitised, these investments would slide faster that Gordon Brown’s reputation.

It would seem that the only qualification for a mortgage was the ability to steam up a mirror – and even that was optional in some cases.

The bad lending only took place because the lenders KNEW that they would be “laying-off” the risk through securitisation. In fact, lenders were cheating each other by selling secutirised mortages to each other.

One could say that they acted fraudulently.

In the antiques trade, ship containers filled with antiques here in the UK are shipped out to the USA.  American dealers pay  a price for a container, only knowing that it contains antiques. On many occasions, the “antiques” turn out to be valueless.

The securitisation principle is the same – only bigger. It started in the States and now we’re all doing it.

Finally, just to give you an idea of scale: last year  Northern Rock securitised about £70 billions-worth of mortgages

Oh for the good old days. The days when you could shake hands with your bank manager without losing your watch.

You can’t beat a good bank.

Chris Blackmore, Business Editor of the London Evening Standard  is quite right in saying that there ought to be a few more bank executives either resigning or at least participating in an exit interview.

Sadly, even on the rare occasions  when they are shown the door and pushed, they are invariably given a very big parachute so they’re never in any great danger.

Spygun understands the industry and knows that there is an almost masonic bond which nurtures, develops and then protects individuals who would be eaten alive in the outside business world. It is no good expecting them “to do the right thing” because they have no concept of what that means. These men are “takers”.

When it suits them, they are the victims of “external economic forces over which we have no control”. Regrettably, they never seem to have any concept or inkling of these forces and consequently, when the solids hit the air-conditioning,  it is always a surprise.

They certainly did not see that mortgage securitisation was an accident waiting to happen. The reason why most did not see the danger is because many did not understand the nature of securitsed mortgages.

They are the “Untouchables”. These are the executives who  can lose millions and still stick £100k per annum into their pension fund.

What Chris  highlighted is their arrogance but it is not just arrogance that has brought them to this point.

In the eighties we had the Genesis of the “corporate entrepreneur”.  American banks were looking for  individuals who were by nature, entrepreneurs  but who would be willing to work within a large organisation, bend the rules where necessary and make big bucks for the business.

It did not matter if they made expensive mistakes, because they had the company’s assets to fall back on. They were encouraged to take risks, on the understanding that occasionally they would make losses..

The Americans were good at it and it is that mentality which bundled up dodgy mortgages and sold them on.

Here is the UK, we played at it, made the right noises and created what can only be described  as “ersatz” corporate entrepreneurs. We had the suit, the car, the management jive talk and sometimes even a dodgy MBA  but we were never the real thing.

The bad news is that here in the UK, the 80s corporate entrepreneurs are now in charge.

However, because they continue to lack the entrepreneurial flair of their American cousins, all that they can do is sit tight and fill their pockets until their personal final whistle sounds.

This is Chris Blackmore’s excellent article which appeared in the Evening Standard on 28th July 2008. It is reproduced here with his kind permission.

Thank God for Mark Burgess, head of equities at Legal & General. At last, an institutional investor has had the guts to say in public what many of them have been muttering in private these past few months – that not enough senior executives at Britain’s banks have quit in the subprime debacle.

Only one has gone – Bradford & Bingley’s Steve Crawshaw, and that was for angina – whereas in America and elsewhere, the sight of highly paid bankers eating humble pie has been a regular occurrence. Look at Royal Bank of Scotland. Its shares have plunged twothirds in the past year, partly because the bank followed its rivals and thought it could make millions from trading in fancy financial instruments built around dodgy borrowers in the US ( precisely the sort of people RBS would not ever lend to normally) and also because it ignored the warning signs and paid a fortune for ABN Amro.

Imagine if a business in any other sector had seen its value plummet so much. Do you think its bosses would still be in situ? Do you suppose RBS analysts would hold back from demanding management changes? Yet RBS chairman Sir Tom McKillop and chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin carry on regardless.

They’re not alone. At HBOS, Lord Stevenson, the chairman, and Andy Hornby, the chief executive, have presided over a share-price collapse of 75%. You have to wonder what sort of cloistered world they inhabit. Surrounded by fawning colleagues, lost in their own vanity, they are shielded from the uncomfortable truth. No surprise then, that Edinburgh is referred to as “Fredinburgh” in tribute to Goodwin’s hold over the home of the Scottish banking establishment.

It’s the sense of complacency I find so breathtaking. Somehow, Goodwin and McKillop, plus their compatriots at other British banks, are saying: “We’re different. Yes, we know others have gone, in New York, Paris, Zurich and Frankfurt, but we’re not like them.” This is arrant nonsense – arrogance that isn’t lost on foreigners when they look at how we conduct ourselves in this country.

Frankly, it’s the sort of old boy matiness that was supposed to have been banished from the City but is clearly as entrenched as it ever was.

It rears its head in other ways, too. One of my bugbears has always been the rank failure of our authorities to prosecute for fraud and other instances of white-collar crime. In the US, managers are frequently led away in chains – but not here. In the UK, apparently, our bosses are clean – they wouldn’t dirty their hands with a bit of crookery.

What rubbish. Jessica de Grazia, the former US prosecutor, has just compiled a report into the Serious Fraud Office. What did she find? Only that the organisation had “pass-the-buck, risk-averse culture, lack of focus and skills”.

Oh, and get this. De Grazia said the SFO had charged seven defendants in five years, against 50 in the same period by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Seven in five years!

Even when we do pursue cases, we do not get them right. The SFO’s conviction rate for 2003-7 was 61%, compared with 92% in New York.

Concluded De Grazia: “A criminal justice system that produces this little cannot be said to be effective in deterring, detecting or punishing criminals who commit serious white-collar crime.”

But it’s the silence that is so damning. Where are the calls for change? Why isn’t the City jumping up and down, saying enough is enough? How can we honestly lay claim to be the world’s leading financial centre when we behave in such a lackadaisical fashion?

What is required is more like Burgess, a fund manager who is not comfortable sitting on his hands, to break their silence. Legal & General holds 5% of RBS. For the sake of the City’s reputation, the other 95% need to stand up and be counted.

The rats were digging – now they’re leaving.

karadzic.jpg Alistair Darling

We have devoted quite a bit of time and space to Mervyn King, his band of funsters and their effectiveness in doing anything at all to the economy. Currently, they are totally boxed in. 

They cannot attempt to stimulate the economy by dropping rates because inflation is running away –  it is out of control and as usual, the BoE is just an expensively suited observer.

There is as saying:


1. There are those who make things happen.
2. There are those who watch things happen.
3.There are those who wonder what happened

The BoE has just slipped from Two to Three. They never made it to One.

The USA has responded aggressively because after three years and a gradually collapsing housing market they had to stop it.

Here in the United Kingdom, interest rates will not be seriously played with until 2009.

That will not help our collapsing property market and unlike the States, we are still in the early stages of the collapse-the USA are about two to three years ahead of us.

The main growth driver of the UK economy is the financial services sector.  That sector is running for cover and because the economy is manufacturing-light, we are in deep trouble.

Past Chancellors have made a great deal of the fact that we are the world’s commercial centre and that London is that the epicentre of world trade.  That is all very well  when the world’s economies are booming but leaves us very vulnerable when they are not.

Unlike the States-all that we can do is sit and wait.

Rats deserting the sinking ship.

We thought that things were bad when Eastern Europeans started heading back home. The real reason that they are disappearing is that our own (domestic) unemployment rate is gathering pace which means fewer jobs for foreigners.

Looking at the G8 group , the best-off at the moment are the “resource economies” such as Russia and Canada. They have something to sell.Our problem is that we have nothing to sell – we are as service-based economy.

What Gordon Brown should do is to take back control of interest rates but not give them to Alistair Darling.  Alistair  can go away, grow his hair and beard, put on a large pair of  glasses and work as a new-age therapist.  No-one will recognise him.

Finally, the Securitisation of mortgages should be outlawed. It is far too easy for bad lenders to hide bad lending by bundling mortgages up and flogging them off on the open market. It is like buying a box of bric-a-brac at an auction and when you get home , discovering that you have bought a load of crap.

Lenders should take responsibility for their own lending -like they used to.

By the way…. Northern Rock….Covered Bond issue?  One thing to say. No.

Money,money, money.

Great fun was had on the various stock exchanges around the world last week. Lots of  yoyo investment activity.  Shares were up and down like a bride’s nightie.

In the US, there was good news from banks such as JP Morgan and Wells Fargo but not so good from Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. Citigroup was keeping its head down.

Fat Fannie Mae and Fulsome Freddie Mac are still sitting there in the corner, quivering and thinking “Feed me”.  Freddie is thinking of raising capital by selling something like 10 billion dollars worth of new shares which will be a good scam if they can pull it off , bearing in mind that in 2008 they managed to lose their investors about three-quarters of their money.

But if they were allowed to go to the wall , property prices would disintegrate and the US housing market would grind to a shuddering halt. Nice.

There is even  more fun and games over in the States  : the US securities regulators are issuing subpoenas for Deutsche bank, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch . They are looking  at suspected manipulation of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns shares.

The banking sector has always been institutionally incompetent and now, to add to that wonderful endorsement, they are regarded as irresponsible, cynical and crooked. Gone are the days of the honest banker who had your interests at heart. There has been a  comparatively recent proliferation of sharp-suited self-serving MBAs  and other prats who have overcomplicated a venerable institution  and turned it into a financial all-singing all-dancing circus.

Many of these people do not have a clue how to deal with the sort of crisis that they are now emeshed-in because they have only experienced the “ups”. Many will crash and burn. Sorry – Many will negatively optimise.

There appears to be no good reason why Sovereign funds or anyone else should rush to the aid of these discredited institutions unless there is a substantial change in their governance and competence.

The word on the streets is that the recovery period of the banking sector is going to take much longer than was generally believed. In fact, put two bankers in a studio, ask them about “the downturn” and you will get three opinions – all of them different.

In spite of the fact that they deal in numbers, it is remarkable how much guesswork and conjecture they rely on in their day-to-day activities.

The mechanics and decision-making behind last week’s announcement by the Bank of England to maintain the bank base rate at five percent demonstrate that institutions such as the Bank of England are not adding to the creation of an economy- they are merely myopic observers.

They are like the 1993 Grand National starter who was waving his flag at the horses when they  false-started and were a hundred yards down the course.

The bank’s monetary policy committee consists of both bankers and proper economists. It was very interesting to note that one of the economists suggested that the base rate be raised by 25  basis points and the other wanted it lowered by the same amount.

Whether bank rates  are raised  by a quarter percent or lowered by quarter percent would make absolutely no difference to the economy because the Bank of England  is lagging behind the economy.

The equation should be quite simple. Inflation is a consequence of rising energy and food prices which in turn are a  function of too-rapid economic growth. We NEEDED a slow-down in economic growth because it was  and still is unsustainable.

Interest rates cannot control economic growth. One day, central banks will realise this.

Nevertheless, through habit more than logic or science, inflation is still regarded as enemy No 1 – the Bogeyman.

The United Kingdom budget deficit in the quarter ending June 2008  was £24.4 billion. That is the biggest deficit since just after World War II. House prices are falling at the  fastest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s and United Kingdom share prices have fallen by 20 percent in the last 12 months.

The general feeling is that things will continue to head south to the end 2008 and possibly beyond. I reckon about 10 years beyond – with of course the occasional rally fired by bouts of illogical euphoria.

The whole scenario is not helped by the fact that currently the City wide boys have not only got themselves themselves into a right old state but have also managed to get themselves into a totally negative mindset.

Traditional thinking has it that in order to solve the problem, more money needs to be thrown at it . Imagine a small businessman on the verge of bankruptcy going to his bank and saying , ” OK, I screwed up. Let me have more money and I’ll see if I can sort it all out.”

Yet, that same small businessman is in the hands of an institution which dishes out business advice whilst losing millions. Takes your breath away! Plus that institution wants more money because it did not take its own advice!

The sad fact is that the banking system is run by incompetents who  in turn are regulated by ineffectuals.

We have a financial system that was a Frankenstein. We now have a financial system which is an ailing Frankenstein.

There is only one solution and that is to dismantle the whole system and start again. Sounds extreme but all that it needs is lots of legislation or possibly the repealing of the legislation which turned Banks into  a combination of Bank, Investment House, Building Society, Insurance Company and anything else to do with cash that you can think of.

The modern “name of the game” is called Client-bank Optimisation. That means that once you have a banking client, he is your prey and you can flog him anything! If you haven’t anything to sell him, invent something! That approach is a time-bomb which WILL eventually go off.

Having said all of that, there are still many in the city who are making money. Unfortunately, they are only making money for themselves and adding nothing to the general flow of the economy- apart, of course when they buy the next Aston Martin or penthouse pad.

Over the next few years, the  dying bodies of financial institutions  will finally float to the top.

There are some who at this moment are covering their losses and holes in the balance sheet thanks to either a fine Finance Director or CEO with a strong self-preservation instinct.

Their grey bloated bellies will finally be visible. They will be twitching in their death throes but as we have seen over the past few weeks, they will still be offering their grasping  fat hands and asking for more money to be inserted by the taxpayer.

Time to stop.

Sitting in the Dock of eBay

 Please click  on “COMMENT” (above).ebaylogo1.jpg The comments will show at the bottom of this page.

 

 

 

 

Ebay says that it is merely a “platform” where buyers and sellers can meet and so it has no financial responsibility towards its buyers. Occasionally it may help a buyer to recoup losses but it is a long drawn-out process.

The recent court victory by the Louis Vuitton Group does not seem to have affected ebay in any way and it has stated that it is to lodge an appeal. For those of you who may not have heard about the Louis Vuitton case, here is a brief summary:

A French court has ordered eBay to pay 40m euros (£31.6m; $63m) to luxury goods group LVMH ( Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy) for allowing online auctions of fake copies of its goods. LVMH claimed that eBay’s French site had not done enough to stop the sale of counterfeit bags and perfumes. The brands affected include Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy. An eBay statement said LVMH was trying to “protect uncompetitive commercial practices at the expense of consumer choice”.

As fatuous arguments go, this is in the top five. What they are appear to be saying is this :  

“We are providing a platform for counterfeit goods to be sold because it is in the consumer’s interest. We are the good guys and we do our best.”

Ebay charges fees through its listing fees and through Paypal and has made millions from the sale of fake goods. Ebay claims that it has invested £20m over the last two years in a project to remove counterfeit goods.

It has a system system called VeRO, or Verified Rights Owner, which is meant to let luxury brands report any suspicious listings which can then be removed from auction. Our experience of this “system” is that it appears to be a cottage industry within eBay and is reactive rather than proactive.

That means that if you try and sell a counterfeit item, you are likely to be safe, unless someone complains.

Spygun’s dealings with eBay suggest that they are not a bad bunch of people, i.e. there is no “naughtiness with intent”.

However, they do very little to inspire confidence – especially the management. It may be that the current set of management skills within the company is out of sync with the current size and growth rate of the business. That happens sometimes – if a company is expanding at a rate of knots, it takes time for the personnel within that company to catch up. No doubt, over the next few years, eBay will be importing the skills set that it needs. 

At present, senior management has removed itself from the outside world and if you are a client of eBay, there is no way that you will be able to speak to anyone except someone who is only authorised in eBay’s “cut-and-paste” style of communication.

Even “one-up” supervisors rarely speak to the outside world. The modus operandi appears to be for the front-line troops to talk to clients and if there is a question that is not in the manual, they go away for a few minutes, speak to someone who knows and then attempt to regurgitate what they have been told to say. The problem for the customer self-amplifies whenever there is more than one question.

Spygun has emailed Senior Management at eBay on several occasions and is still awaiting the first written response. I’ve had a couple of phone calls from the Executive Escalations office – I suppose that the Exec Escalations people are the equivalent of the Pope’s Cardinals. After all, one does not expect an email from the Pope.

The only suggestions  are  : If you are telephoning ebay, prepare a flask of coffee, a box of sandwiches and possibly a book or magazine.  Secondly, if you want a query to be answered by email, develop a taste for badly-written blandishments. Whether you write to the CEO or “Trust and Safety” of Customer Services” – it is always the same person who seems to cut-and-paste the reply.

Ebay is a rapidly-improving exponent of a culture of “Teflon management”. That is to say that when it suits them, they are only “the man in the middle” and never an accessory to any crime. Nothing sticks – not even to the fan.

Here’s a lovely quote from eBay:

“Any inconvenience that this situation may have brought you is deeply regretted.  I also apologise for the confusion brought by the previous response.

Please be advised that eBay is only a “platform” for this transaction.
We are not trying to avoid potential responsibilities but just clarifying our role.  We are not exactly the “seller” of this item.  We only bring buyers and sellers together.”

I have put together a Case Study based on ebay’s dealing with a recent selling/buying problem that Spygun experienced . I will publish it soon and it is hilarious!

Spygun would love to meet whoever wrote the eBay “Book of Words”.  

I bet she was at Woodstock.

Knife in the fast lane.

gordo.jpg ” Listen up punks”

“We are clearing the decks, cutting the red tape, cutting back on bureaucracy, making it possible for policemen and women to spend far more time on the beat answering people’s inquiries, in touch with local communities – a visible presence on the beat so that more and more people will see a policeman or woman there and able to help them.”

Gordon Brown has said that more people will see more police officers on the streets under new reforms announced today. About time.

The word “police” has a specific meaning – it means to regulate, control and keep in order. That definition contains no reference to fannying about with bits of paper, typing out reports and being a desk jockey. It is an outside job.

Spygun sincerely hopes that we are at the dawn of a new policing era and that the consequence of this Government’s initiative will result in a long queue of wide-eyed innocents wanting to become proper policemen. We want policemen to be Policemen.

Brown said that the new policing Green Paper will “clear the decks” and cut down on bureaucracy so that officers can spend more time tackling crime. That must have come  straight out of the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious.

Speaking of “bureaucracy” – let us hope that this initiative is not stymied by Westminster bureaucracy. We are at a stage when it would make sense to give the police powers under emergency legislation so that they would  not be subject to Westminster ruminations while more kids are knifed to death or maimed.

The number of Police statistical “targets” is to be downsized so that instead of chasing numbers, they will be chasing criminals. Wow!

Knife crime has shaken the government from its moribund ambivalence and the Prime Minister has made the most memorable and sensible statement of his tragic tenure.

Sometimes the numbers can be useful  and they revealed that last year the police recorded 20,000 serious offences involving knives. That is why the solids have hit the air conditioning.

More stop and search, metal detectors and prison sentences smack not only of knee-jerk desperation but may increase the “caché” of carrying  a Stanley knife or machete. Caution should be exercised – otherwise we will have the biggest game of “cat-and-mouse” ever devised.

Balance is what is needed at this stage and not overkill.

Last week  there was talk of making parents responsible but there was no mention of them in the latest statements. 

Let’s face it, knife carriers do not come from nice homes and are probably thick with equally hopelessly thick parents. A knife in an adolescent’s hand is just a willy extension. Men and boys with sad lives need willy extensions because the knife takes the place of self-respect and self-esteem. It makes them feel like a big boy.

They probably still live with their mum and/or dad and have absolutely no chance in later life but regrettably will one day reproduce and there will be another idiot on the streets talking about “respec”.

He says and writes “respec” not for cultural reasons but because he can’t spell it.

Lewes Clampers

 clampers.jpg “Your’e a Happy Clamper? Well, it is Sunday.”

This post is only relevant and important to the people of Lewes in East Sussex.

On Sunday 15th June, a company called Guardian Parking Management descended on a private piece of land at Eastgate Wharf and clamped ten cars which had parked there in spite of warning signs indicating that they would be clamped. (?!)

When I arrived, Norman Baker MP who is often seen at the nearby boot-fair was frantically dialling someone on his mobile phone and a crowd of about 50 people had gathered. Two Guardian Parking Management Vans were parked as well as a police car.

“They’re clamping everyone.” I was told. ” Don’t stop here!”

By the time I had parked and returned, Norman was talking into his cellphone and this time I was told , ” The papers are coming, we are trying to get the Telly people and isn’t it disgusting! Oh yes, the clampers have had their tyres slashed. Tee Hee!!”

All the reports that I have read of this incident contain the usual mélange of vitriolic humbug and half-truths: ” Legalised mugging”, ” I was there for five minutes”, “I’m disabled” , ” We’ve been parking here for 20 years” , “We’re on a Pension” , ” I didn’t see the signs.”etc.

Sound-bite from Norman: There is a need to have a greater say over private parking companies – both the amount they charge and the way some of them operate.”  Quite.

How would you like it if we all came and parked in your front garden, Norm? Oh…Private Property is it?

Cheval Properties, the managing agents were quoted in one paper as the “owners” of the land. They are NOT the owners. The reporter wrote that they had not responded to requests for a statement. It was also reported that Guardian Parking Management, who had clamped ten cars, “refused to back down”.

In the interests of balance and fair play, here are some facts – and Spygun is not a fan of clampers but – they were following orders! 

As a journo who had walked away from what was  potentially a very entertaining story, I thought that I would test some of what I read and heard.

Firstly, I called Robin Fell, Chief Executive of Cheval Properties and asked for a statement. My call was returned ten minutes later. Here is the company’s response in full:

“Our primary concern is the Health and Safety of not-only our tenants but also of the public-at-large. This is an increasingly commercialised area and we are genuinely worried about the possibility of accidents and access difficulties. We are aware of the Sunday boot sale but have had no contact from the organisers. Week-round shopping means that there are goods deliveries which can take place at any time and there have been times when traffic has been at a standstill. For example, there was an occasion when an Ambulance was impeded because of the chaotic parking. We do sympathise with the public and understand their concerns but the parking restrictions will remain for the foreseeable future”
 
 

“We wrote to the tenants and users of the road, including NCP, on 20 May to inform them of the upcoming changes.  We then wrote to everyone again on 5 June sending copies of the signs that were erected and confirming the date that the clamping would start.  Furthermore I understand that Guardian Parking Management visited the site a week before the clamping began to inform people that this was going to happen.”

The boot sale organisers who have been affected by these changes should have been told by NCP  that parking restrictions were coming into force and made alternative parking arrangements. The Sunday arrangement is between the boot sale organisers and NCP. Abusing and damaging the clampers and their vans is clearly not the answer.

Guardian Management operatives (the clampers) said that people were still coming into the restricted area while they were clamping –  in spite of the notices , men in uniform and two clearly marked vans! Illiteracy, stupidity or provocation? 

It also has to be said that the clampers looked like a good professional non-aggressive outfit and not a bunch of tattooed cowboys.

However, this whole debacle in Eastgate Wharf has done very little to enhance the reputations of either Guardian Parking Management  or the users of the boot sale. But who is to blame?
 
The clampers, (Guardian Parking Management) acted totally within the law because vehicles were parked on private land, managed by Cheval Properties. The Police also acted correctly and were not influenced by an attempt at mob-politics led by Norman Baker MP.  They are now just investigating a tyre-slashing incident carried out on the clampers’ vehicles.
 
The managers of the land said today that they have a responsibility to the tenants who in turn have a right of access to their shops and offices. That responsibility is a 24/7 arrangement which of course includes Sundays.

It looks as if the only course of action left open to the car booters of Lewes is another effigy to burn on the 5th November.

They used to burn effigies of the Pope. Now they burn politicians and clampers. How times have changed.

How to make big bucks 3.”The Boiler room”.

 burglar.bmp “Hello, I’m a Stockbroker and have I got a deal for you!!”

This is Number 3 of an occasional series – usually these are about how crooks in the Financial Services Industry make money from your gullibility or your lack of attention to detail.

This particular scam usually involves a potential investor (you) and a telephone call from a “stockbroker” – usually somewhere in Europe or maybe the Americas. Recently, we have even had calls from as far away as the Philipines.

The stockbroker is not real – he is a highly-trained salesman whose job is to convince you that he is calling from a legitimate brokerage . He works from a very good highly-honed sales script. He is not reading from the script, he knows it by heart. He also has answers ready for all of your doubts.

Firstly, you may be wondering where he obtained your name. The usual source is Companies House or some other organisation which lists Director information. The information is usually in the public domain. This scam is aimed at people who appear to have money and/or who have already bought shares at some stage in their life.

The script asks you how you are , how you are keeping, what the weather is like etc.  A compliment may be thrown in which identifies you as a big-hitting investor – something to massage your ego. The salesman will have identified himself as someone from say a well-known New York brokerage. This part of the “pitch” is called the icebreaker and is designed to make you semi-interested and to create a bit of empathy between you and the salesman.

He may then ask you how your current investments are doing and throw in a few technical investment terms which are designed to flatter you into thinking that you and he talk the same language. At this stage, he may also ask you about the approximate size of your investment portfolio.

Whether your response is negative or positive, he will figuratively take you by the hand and lead you into telling you about a small company that is about to undergo some sort of change.

The change can be the promise of a big contract with a very large company that you will definitely have heard of or  possibly a takeover. Whatever it is, the change will guarantee a sudden and fast rise in the share price of that company.

He may give you a website where you can look at the company and another site where you can see the current share price.

Both sites are either fakes or the information given is false or non-existent.

He will then ask you to  make an investment or possibly “groom” you by saying that he will call you back in a week and that meanwhile, you should look at the share price to see what happens to it. When he calls you back, he will tell you that if you had invested, you would have made  X dollars but luckily for you, he either has another stock or maybe it’s not too late to invest in this one.

You may have telephone calls from the same company for a period of months or years, until you are on first-name terms. Remember, there is one rule:

NEVER EVER SEND MONEY TO THESE PEOPLE – THEY ARE INVESTMENT BANDITS AND YOU WILL LOSE YOUR MONEY.

Last year, it is assumed that British investors lost between £200-500 millions to these so-called stockbrokers. Most of the individuals  who lost money were experienced investors.

Finally, if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it is.

Making Big Bucks 2.Construction Tendering

This is part two of an occasional series on how to make money with minimum effort and how to be a corporate bandit.

Imagine that you are a construction company and you have been asked by a Hospital or Education Authority, Local Council or any Government Department to tender for an expensive construction job. You know that three other companies have been asked to tender or quote for the same job because it is supposed to be a competitive tender. You have the names of the opposition.

Firstly, you have the advantage of presenting to public sector managers and you know that they are definitely NOT business people. However, they do enjoy the vanity of talking big bucks to entrepreneurial businessmen. After all, it is only the taxpayers money that they will be dishing out. So here is what you do:

You have the identity of the three other companies who have also been asked to submit sealed (secret) quotes to the YOTFLS  (Senior Managers and Directors in the Public Sector often acquire the honorary title “Your Out To Free Luchness”).

You know the opposition well , so you get together for lunch with the three other companies and the conversation goes something like this: ” Right, we all agree that this job is worth about £5 million and we all want to make on this one, don’t we?”

(Lots of drooling, wiping grease off chin and nodding)

“OK. It’s our turn to do this job so we will quote £10 million. You over there can quote £12million, you lot £15 million and ( pause for a slug of Blue Nun) you other lot are Irish – you quote £25 million.”

The Irish one lifts his hard hat and scratches his head ” But dat means that yorr  bind to get the job ‘n’ make £5million profit”

(Shouts of “Yeh….er…profit” and banging of spoons on the table)

“If we all agree then we will make £2million but we’ll give you one million each for your trouble. As long as you do the same for us when it’s your turn.”

The following week the YOTFLS open the sealed bids and “save” the taxpayer lots of money by giving the job to the lowest quote because all of the quotes (apart from the Irish one…hee..hee) are roughly in the same ball-park so they must be right.

You can also make a few million more because there will be delays, public enquiries, endless meetings, people wanting to save great-crested newts, archaeologists finding Saxon burial sites etc. So by the time the job starts, materials costs will have been driven up, sub-contractor costs will have increased etc etc. 

You and your chums will be quids in.

Chavopoly

Click on this:

chavopoly1.jpg

This is for all you chav fans.

Learn about these people because they will inherit the earth. Learn about their customs, clothes, recipes, language, habitat and culture.

Some regard them as a bit of a joke but it is only a matter of time before they will demand their own State and within two generations, they may begin to breed with humans.

The human/chav hybrid will have the brain of a human and the dress-sense and class of a chav. Let’s hope that it is not the other way round.

Are you taking the pikey?

Media commentators have done a wonderful job of not saying what they want to say when comparing the Shannon and Maddie abductions. Mutterings about “less attractive and not-so media-savvy people” and “more articulate and better looking parents” are a cop-out.  So is “Why is it that the McCanns had so much more publicity than Shannon’s parent(s)?” We all know the answer:

Pikeys get a worse deal in the media that posh people . 

Plus, they are manipulated for the sake of more interesting copy. For instance, last night a whole clutch of them was swigging champagne and saying stuff such as ” I’m going to get really drunk now!”. Some of them looked as if they were taking direction from someone behind the camera: ” Wave the bottle higher and shake it a bit more, love !”

All the bottles had the same label which suggests that they were bought by one person. I suspect that it was a TV producer who had arrived with the wine in order to get that shot of a line of pikeys shaking champagne (it was probably Cava) in the manner of Wayne and Waynetta Slobb at a pikey christening.

No doubt , now that Shannon has (thankfully) been found, there will be more hacks with chequebooks (sorry, I meant cash) arriving and interviewing dads, uncles aunts and the several hundred more relatives that will emerge from the chipboard.

The TV interviews will all finish with the phrase that all uneducated prats use: ”  I am so happy that I really don’t know what to say.”

The reason, darling, that you don’t know what to say is because you have run out of vocabulary.

To all you media people: LEAVE THEM ALONE.  Although it’s big  – it’s certainly not clever.