Monday, February 16, 2009

Sink to the bottom with you

I've been following the continuing slide of the economy and the Wodehousian farce that is the collapse of the Irish banking system with a mixture of resignation and trepidation. As scandal piles upon scandal, it should really come as no surprise to us that there are senior figures within the business community for whom lying, cheating and stealing on a daily basis is a way of life. After all, the Mahon tribunal showed us that businessmen and women have been more than happy to bribe politicians for years - what made us think that they were not also merrily engaged in bribing and defrauding one another?

Commentators have been calling for "root-and-branch" change, which would be very welcome, but something I read over the weekend gives me a sinking feeling that a simple personnel swap will effect little difference. The problems endemic in Irish business go right to the core, right back to when the rules of how to be a successful businessperson are being laid out.

The piece I read was in the UCD alumni magazine Business Connections (I actually didn't attend UCD, they just haven't updated their mailing list in a while by the looks of things). In a celebration of the centennial of the UCD Business School, the issue was showcasing:

"...some of the leading figures in business, industry and public life who have graced the halls of the UCD School of Business over the years."

One of the "leading figures" they chose was Jim Flavin, the former head of DCC. You might remember Jim from the news in recent past: in 2007 he was found by the Supreme Court to have engaged in illegal trading of Fyffes shares (banana republic, ho ho ho), yielding his company €85 million in ill-gotten gains.

Nice one UCD: what a shining example indeed, a true paragon of virtue to hold up to Ireland's next generation of leaders. Behold! You too can cheat the system!

BTW, Mr. Flavin was also previously head of AIB's venture capital unit. Smashing. As I've said, I think it'll take more than a sweeping out of the old to see any real change in how business at the highest level is carried out in this country. Maybe the memory of the thousands and thousands of lost jobs will make us all a little less trusting next time. Here's hoping.

1 comment:

Ennis Swimmer said...

Reality check, Dave. As long as commercial interests control the political system, there will be no serious prosecution of white-collar crime. Your own example of the Mahon tribunal attests to that.