The top 10 villains of 2012
This year has been about Olympian heroes and royal celebrations but 2012 has also seen scandalous revelations where established national treasures and figures of authority have been unveiled as villains. The truth was out there after all...
The second Jimmy to make the headlines this year, Comedian Jimmy Carr decided to take advantage of his accountant's creative thinking and joined an offshore tax avoidance scheme. The K2 scheme created offshore loans and new contracts of employment for UK earners via shell companies. Carr, along with over a 1,000 fellow tax avoiders, squirreled £3.3m a year through the Jersey-based scheme.
Once caught he did at least show remorse and acted the penitent man. As his fellow comedian Sean Lock said: "Well we all like to put some money away for a rainy day. But in your case, who do you think you are? Noah?"
Facing MPs at the Treasury Select Committee in July, Barclays kingpin gave no indication that he would change his attitude towards the big bonus culture in banking. Claiming that there was "remorse" among those traders in the Libor scandal, he showed reluctance to offer any himself when asked about profit remuneration and the £75m of accumulated wealth he took over five years at the bank.
In the end his downfall was not related to the Libor shenanigans but instead his shareholders lost confidence that he could ever restore Barclays reputation. The Chelsea supporting City darling once referred contemptuously to his new home as 'little England' after being thwarted over the acquisitions of ABN Amro, and Lehman Bros after the 2008 crash. Both would have sunk Barclays. He exited stage 'west', retreating to the safety of Wall St.
As Rebekah Brooks swept into the High Court during the Leveson inquiry this year, the words of American poet Sylvia Path came to mind: 'Out of the ash I rise with my red hair, And I eat men like air'.
However, sadly for the former News International chief executive, she lost control over the many men in her life. Rupert and James Murdoch, Andy Coulson, David Cameron, Lord Leveson - her career was a classic case of the 'Icarus effect', having flown far too close to the Sun (sorry terrible pun).
Her future doesn't look bright, though she was paid off handsomely with a £10.8m compensation package from the Murdochs. The court case against her will probably take many months, if not a year, of legal wrangling costing the taxpayer heavily. But more revelations are bound to appear of her closeness to David Cameron's government. Headlines at the ready. LOL.
Rogue traders just don't seem to go away. Every time the City says it can clean-up its act, another compliance fiasco rears its head. UBS trader Kweku Adoboli's case was Nick Leeson all over again, but unlike Barings, at least the bank didn't fail.
His crime was the biggest fraud in history, racking up losses of £1.5bn, during three years of secretive off the books trades. He was jailed in November for seven years, while his bosses were slapped with a £30m fine from the FSA for lax systems and controls. On leaving he apologised in a letter to his desk head for the "sh*tstorm" left behind but the FSA found that many of his colleagues knew of his illicit trading accounts.
Will this change anything? Answers on a postcard from Belmarsh prison please.
Well, where do you start? The local bank really went beyond the realms of good customer service when it decided to launder money for Mexican drug cartels. It was also caught processing banned transactions from suspect foreign states including Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma. HSBC used its US operations to channel the money.
Flouting all the usual rules underpinning prudent investment banking, the US attorney general Lanny Breuer said "the record of dysfunction that prevailed at HSBC for many years was astonishing". Rather than be banned from the US banking system for good, the bank has paid a $1.92bn settlement and avoids a criminal prosecution.
CEO Stuart Gulliver says the company has spent $290m improving money laundering prevention policies and terminated 109 suspect banking correspondent relationships. 2013 is going to be a difficult year for drug dealers and rogue states.
The reputation of bankers this year has hit all-time lows but this scandal shows how few lessons of 2008 have been learnt. Fiddling inter-bank lending rates was the lowest common denominator from the world's biggest brands trying to rebuild depleted reserves and profits.
All the major banks are involved or have been affected in some form: Barclays paid £290m in penalties; RBS is set to cough up £350m; and UBS's fine is expected to top $1.5bn. Manipulating the rate of lending has been detrimental to around 250,000 mortgage payers, who have an interest rate that is linked to the three month Libor rate. What was most offensive about this whole affair, is that it made a mockery of the Coalition's Merlin Project. Banks are not lending to UK business, but instead performing scams in the back office to refill their own coffers.
Advocates of the free press are Hacked Off with the smarmy actor's interference and truculent behaviour over the Leveson inquiry's conclusions. Elements of the press behaved immorally and illegally and should be punished. But killing 300 years of democratic freedoms with statutory regulations is far more immoral. If Grant really wants a return to the Star Chamber regulation of the press, then he should be ready for the consequences. Playing 'Mr Grant Goes to Westminster' maybe fun, but his Jimmy Stewart-like persona will wane quickly once the press is muzzled.
George Osborne for remaining Chancellor. David Cameron for introducing knee-jerk policies in response to media frenzy. Theresa May for border control farces and allowing the taxpayer to pick up £500,000 legal aid bill for hate preacher Abu Qatada. Andrew Lansley. Mr Hunt and the News International fiasco...the list goes on.
The Lib Dems
They need their own slot. Mostly due to Nick Clegg for being so ineffectual and alienating the public to the point that UKIP are now the third most popular party in the UK.