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Sir Fred affair: should we know more?

The High Court has criticised newspapers for challenging the injunction protecting former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin and the colleague with whom he had an affair. Which side is right? Should we care?

Sir Fred affair: should we know more?

The High Court has criticised newspapers for challenging the privacy injunction protecting former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin and the colleague with whom he had an affair. Which side is right? Should shareholders care?

What is in the 'public interest'?

A number of national newspapers have been heavily criticised by the High Court for challenging a privacy injunction preventing the press from publishing details of Sir Fred Goodwin’s alleged affair.

The newspapers argued that it was in the public interest to publish details of the former Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) chief executive's alleged affair with a senior colleague, as the relationship may have breached the bailed out bank’s 'code of conduct' – which states employees must declare any relationships which pose a potential conflict of interest.

Put simply, people want to know if Goodwin's supposed relationship had anything to do with the bank's near collapse.

The High Court however yesterday ruled against News Group Newspapers (NGN), News International's subsidary which publishes the Sun; Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail; and Mirror Group Newspapers.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said their case was ‘weak’ and criticised the newspapers for not giving Goodwin and the woman in question any notice to prepare a response.

Mr Justice Tugendhat also clarified that the injunction would not hinder investigation or stop information from being disclosed to the regulator, adding that there is currently no evidence to suggest Goodwin’s alleged relationship breached RBS’s code of conduct.

‘When the court is provided with no evidence of the particular facts, the court cannot find a breach of corporate governance has, or even may have, occurred, he said. ‘If evidence is produced in the future, that evidence can be put before the court, together with any evidence and submissions from Sir Frederick Goodwin, the lady and RBS.’

It is thought that in the wake of this clarification the FSA, which has long been criticised for refusing to publish its investigation into why RBS collapsed due to 'legal reasons', will come under even more pressure to reveal its findings.

Goodwin's story

Goodwin obtained the superinjunction earlier in March after he caught wind that the Sun was planning to publish a story about his alleged relationship with a member of staff.

A superinjunction prevents the media not only from reporting the affair, but also from revealing that there is even a privacy injunction in place.

Last week however, under the protection of ‘parliamentary privilege’, Lord Stoneham, a Liberal Democrat peer, broke the superinjunction during a debate in the House of Lords.

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52 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Clive B

May 24, 2011 at 13:39

I believe the law will have to change. Not sure how exactly, but it seems to take no account of the Internet.

Having an injunction against articles printed in the UK may have worked in times gone past where the general population had no access to foreign media.

That's clearly undergone a massive change with so many of the population now having access to the Internet.

Not being a football fan (no, really not), I had no interest in the Ryan Giggs story. However, last week one of the UK news sites - while running a "we can't say who it is" - showed a print of a foreign sports site. Out of curiousity, I went to the site (Spanish), little search and up pops Ryan Gigg's name.

Not that you need to be able to translate Spanish to English to recognize a name, but even that is available (e.g. Google translate).

UK law seems to adopt a "we see no internet, it doesn't exist" type of view. Clearly unworkable.

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John Lacy

May 24, 2011 at 13:49

I think that the whole situation is a farce.

Why must the British press make such a meal out of politicians/footballers/so-called celebrities misbehaving. As long as the performance of their main employment is not affected what they do in private is an irrelevance.

Time to grow up people!!!

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Liz Ringwald - Cudd

May 24, 2011 at 13:54

If you play by the sword you must learn to die by it. No one can have a clandestine affair, or any affair and run a bank such as RBS we are human and have human feelings which cloud our judgement when in lust, and the fact that he had time to conduct this affair says it all! Everyone in the public domain should be accountable - most in some way receive public funds or are where they are due to either good or bad press. Our country is a free country, these injunctions are seriously damaging that fact, what will come next? Our courts and the Judges who preside over them, now seem to have the power of a dictator, we are entering a frightening time, look at FIFA, how did we feel that people were accepting bribes, hiding it and getting away with it, the same is true of paying for Injunctions, look at this as bribing the courts, I hope the law sees sense and justice prevails.

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May 24, 2011 at 14:06

When a law in unenforceable it needs to be repealed.

With every new revelation the law falls further into disrepute.

In this country we have a tradition of 'justice being done and being seen to have been done'. This appears not to be happening.

As a private citizen I am not pleased to discover that a mob of adulterous footballers and rich celebrities now have access to private censorship, this means that there is one law for the rich and one for the poor.

One simple answer would be that all applications for one of these super- injunctions should be available to all under legal aid.

Since this is never going to happen the law needs to be got rid of p.d.q. and at the same time some of the more out of touch senior judges should be 'retired', their more recent statements have made the Law into an ass.

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May 24, 2011 at 14:07

It's a pity this stuff has sidetracked the main issue about Fred the Shred. The fact that singlehandedly he allowed a mega-bank to indulge in years of crazy lending and gambling with depositors money. Finally allowing it to go bust - costing you and me thousands of pounds each to rescue because it was "too big to fail". Try not paying your mortgage and say you gambled the money away. See if you are considered "too big to fail".

Thats not to say there is not a small army of bankers representing the elite ruling class who also rip off the oiks all the time. But he is the ugly front man who is up for kicking.

And the poor chap only had £5million payoff and £750 thousand a year pension.

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Robin Cregeen

May 24, 2011 at 14:14

The courts are in error and should heed public concerns. Whilst there are undoubtedly cases where a person's privacy should be protected, the current interpretation by courts is not in the public interest. This is a clear case where is there has been wrongdoing by the ex-RBS boss, it requires open investigation.

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Andrew Diggens

May 24, 2011 at 14:26

We need to remember the real reasons why the right to a private life was included in the human rights convention. Its aim was to prevent dictators and fascist governments spying on their own citizens. Like so muchof the convention on human rights, the original intention has been lost.

It was certainly not the intention of those who drafted it for it to be misused for such shallow purposes as preventing the affairs of overpaid footballers and other 'celebrities' from being made public. The fault really lies with the policiticians who introduced the Human Rights Act for not making the intention clear and also the judges for their apparent inability to realise that they are failing to interpret the rights contained in the convention in the manner which the original signatories intended

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Who is going to benifit

May 24, 2011 at 14:27

Isn't it about time Sir Fred was stipped of his Knighthood, which he received for 'Services to Banking' So you destroy a bank walk away with millions and be rewarded with a Khighthood. Something is seriously wrong.

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May 24, 2011 at 14:38

The law is an ass. But as it has been enacted by idots interests, what else can we expect?.

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tony levene

May 24, 2011 at 14:44

It's not just Giggsy all over the internet, there's also the lady who was not Mrs Fred who is alleged to have shared Fred's bed. The Giggs case shows that, if there were shares, you would have to short those of his lawyers, Schillings. Without the law stuff, Giggs would have been a one day wonder of no interest. After all, Americans survive with far greater press freedom.

I feel a little sorry for misled Giggs. Fred is different. He failed to tell the board of his affair and while they would have probably rubber-stamped it (like everything else) it would have brought it out into the open.

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Grumpy Old Man 2

May 24, 2011 at 14:59

Why is this article appearing on Citywire, "the independent guide to your financial life". What has this article got to do with a guide to anyone's financial life? I don't want to read about so called celebs' crappy private lives, or financiers for that matter, so I stopped buying newspapers - now, it appears on this site. Anyway, what I should like to read, in a vengeful way, is the private lives of guilty journalists instead, and see how they squirm. Why do we not hear about the private lives of naughty journalists - any volunteers to report!

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Clive B

May 24, 2011 at 15:00

@John Lacy

"As long as the performance of their main employment is not affected what they do in private is an irrelevance."

I agree that is one of the key questions (the other being the conflict between an individual's right to privacy vs the freedome of speech), but I disagree with you.

Imo, if people in power are willing to cheat and/or lie to those they love/cherish, why would they care at all what they do to those of us they merely employ/govern.

Hence, to me, it's very relevant what sort of a person they are and that includes some aspects of their private life (e.g. cheating on spouse)

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jeff lampert

May 24, 2011 at 15:03

Sir Fred's order may not be only about his sex life:

David Fabb has other more serious issues with him:

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Simple Simon

May 24, 2011 at 15:11

If we're concerned about who someone is sleeping with because it might impact on their work, shouldn't we be analysing critically what they had for breakfast, the colour of their shirt, and where they go on holiday?

Who cares!

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May 24, 2011 at 15:28

It is evident that the law will be reviewed shortly to make it workable. However,

money corrupts and power corrupts absolutely. The public have had no way of getting back at Goodwin, who showed no remorse nor humility, but I am at least enjoying a little schadenfreude. This man either knew what he and his cohorts of "masters of the universe" were doing by trading in worthless paper, or he didn't. Either way he deserves everything ill that comes his way.

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John Lacy

May 24, 2011 at 15:47

Clive B

Fair point but I don't look to the CEO or MD of a company to be a paragon of virtue---I look at his/her ability to run the company profitably within the parameters set by the board and pay me a decent dividend. Anything else is irrelevant.

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Clive B

May 24, 2011 at 16:00

John Lacy

Fair enough if you keep control of your investments, but there's always the case where people hand control of their money over to others (yes, foolish).

e.g. That nice Mr Madoff

-almost certainly lied to his family about his dealings

-definitely lied to his investors "your investment is safe with me and you're worth £x millions". They were only watching the bottom line, not him.

Doesn't have to be as unlikely as Madoff, there are plenty of people who look after client money and promise its safe. Imo, we need to know they're honourable people. We don't want to be handing money over to lying scumbags. Their private life may show that to be the case even though their professional dealings look 100% legit.

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May 24, 2011 at 16:11

I cannot understand why disclosure of peoples private lives can possibly be "in the public interest".

If he had been guilty of fraud, money laundering or nepotism or any other offense that could affect his ability to do his job effectively, then obviously it should be in the public domain.

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Rob Walker

May 24, 2011 at 16:17

Who knows the facts? Presumably the court did. Take the hypothesis that the woman in question has attempted suicide. Does the gagging order look so stupid then? Think what you like about those people petitioning the courts, but at least give the courts credit for acting in best interests. The real issue is surely why such powers are not accessible to people on avarage income. I'm sure the landlord in the Jo Yates murder enquiry who was wrongly suspected but had his details broadcast in every newspaper would have wanted similar protection against such damaging publicity. That's where the real injustice lies, not in the rabble-rousing tabloids' propoganda..

Rob Walker

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May 24, 2011 at 16:38

Why is this on this site?

Well, if Fred the Shred has gone to such lengths to hide his adultery after he left RBS, to what lengths must he have gone to deceive his wife and hide it from his colleagues (minions), whilst he was meant to be running a global bank? Where did he 'liaise' with this co-worker? Did he do it whilst staying away on business? Did he claim expenses for these 'meetings' from the Bank?

Does anyone not believe this would have had an effect on his judgement; that his mind would have necessarily had to be elsewhere at a time of great concern for the Bank and the taxpayers who bailed it out and paid for his pension?

His behaviour at that time (who cares about now!) is of interest to the general public.

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Mikel Nicholls

May 24, 2011 at 16:55

Lloyd George made a fair fist of running the country, despite his any affairs. Salacious gossip sells papers.

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david Bhatti

May 24, 2011 at 17:01

There are many reputable websites which would inform you that democracy relies upon peoples' gullibility. Politicians are accused of taking full advantage of this.

Democracy can degererate into a rule of the mob. Do you want a posse rule?

The judges has followed the law and practice related to Privicy Law in the case of Sir Fred the Shred. It should not be confused with the footballer's case, as the two cases have different sets of circumstances.

Here the legislative body is wrongly accusing the judiary of taking over their right ie of making laws. It's absurd. The judiciary interpret the law. How strange that our MPs seem not know the difference!

There are shareholdeers and shareholders, it is hard to believe big fund managers would have missed any material loss resulting from a private relationship. Take note that breach of the company's code of practice cannot assumed to be a fact.

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an elder one

May 24, 2011 at 17:25

Could it be that those who go to the expense of taking out gagging orders are simply trying to draw attention to themselves, for that appears to be the result. Had they not done so, their behaviour would have remained just rumour - or would it?

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jon d

May 24, 2011 at 18:15

The High Court just doesn't unerstand the Internet. (I am reminded of the Judge in the '60s who asked "What is Rock and Roll?") The social interaction Internet applications such as Twitter allow people to exchange views: this has for example helped liberate Arab countries. For the High Court to try and place restrictions on thsee Internet applications is farcical, as that isn't possible unless you are prepared to run a nation like today's China, or Syria. I consider that over time, our newspapers will have territory eroded away from them by these new media, which don't involve journalists but rather allow direct interchange between people to move far out of earshot. That only the rich can get these injunctions and superinjunctions is wrong - if there were to be a favourable climate for these injunctions, then it should apply to all. That the famous try and project false images of themselves is also wrong. Taking both into account, I consider that the Courts should stop granting them.

Jemima Khan seems to have done a good enough job in asserting a lack of involvement with Jeremy Clarkson - it should be up to others to make refutations themselves - the new media are (as Jemima has shown) quite up to this task.

Better that the Courts expend effort to reform themselves - they are effectively broken right now (see David Blunket's recent account of being called to jury service in the Yorkshire Post if you have any doubts).

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May 24, 2011 at 19:02

If we could stand back and see what these guys are up to, we would be protesting in the streets. The whole financial services sector has been taken over by greedy, under or unqualified, fast talkers with no moral principles. In a fair society this guy would be in jail.

It cannot be right to take money from hard working people pay them 0.5% and lend it out at 19%, and pocket the difference.

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Alan Cork

May 24, 2011 at 19:18

There are two sides to this. I do not think the public always has a right to know about a private affair between consenting adults. I also do not think that lust damages a persons ability to do their job well. Indeed a healthy sexual relationship is good for us and sexual frustration and repression can lead to people making wrong decisions. However in the case of Sir Fred, he and his fellow bankers created such a financial mess which we, everyone, are still paying for I think he is fair game and every one of his dirty little secrets should be exposed. Sir Fred deserves no protection.

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jon d

May 24, 2011 at 19:42

Alan Cork, I don't fundamentally disagree with you, but the new media allow people to talk informally about these things, and that is healthy (better than suppressing it). However, I also agree that "Sir" Fred should be opened up to the public. He is an only moderately capable person who has ruined this whole country. I am told he, and most of his Board at RBS, didn't even have any formal banking qualifications!

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May 24, 2011 at 20:06

I think the key issue here is was he concebtrating on his job, based on the results he had other things on his mind. We all deserve to know how this guy managed to cost us so much.

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May 24, 2011 at 21:36

Can't understand why people are so understanding. Does his wife & kids and the rest of his clan think it's OK if he goes to bed with his staff. I've been in Natwest since the 60s and this man has a moral responsibility to give me a good deal, he is living on my money, if no one put their money in his bank he wouldn't be able to rip us off as he has done. By pocketing millions of pounds for himself and his fellow back scratchers he has deprived small businesses of the funds to grow & create jobs.

How can we be discussing whether this is of public interest. Would I be interested if my local headmaster was at it with his staff or pupils, and what of the church I need to know if he is playing around with his parishioners.

How did these semi-qualified, greedy, rascals come to be in senior positions and get away with it for so long. What else have they been up to? It's rare for a good man to change his ways, we need to know more.

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May 24, 2011 at 21:44

There are some mixed comments here, but there is a serious issue for a bank. Bank security is based on the "two sets of eyes" principle, hence the need to declare any relationships.

so, FG would know this - and given his position, he certainly should be held to account if only to send the message on the rules.

Footballers - i am less concerned, although I do wonder about a society that can tolerate someone committing an adulterous relationship and being protected (even indirectly).

Back to FG - when a regulator does not get to find out, that is serious. That means we could have people appointed to top institutions without full knowledge.

I see no reason for super injunctions - law and justice is open. If people cant stay zipped up, then so be it - they know the world they live in.

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Chris Kenney

May 24, 2011 at 21:48

I think many of you are allowing your dislike of Sir Fred to blind you to the fact that an injunction is a court order. Disobeying it is committing contempt of court (except in parliament.)

Contempt is a very serious offence. You either believe in the rule of law or you don’t, you cannot pick and choose as you wish.

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May 24, 2011 at 22:43

Tired of an anything goes society. People have lost all values and all sense of right and wrong. An anything goes free-for-all exists in the UK due to the ashamedness of British people to stick up for Christian values and to stand up for what is right or wrong. Well perhaps what we are witnessing with the internet and world access is an adjustment on this.

Unfortunately in this type of scenario where each person lives according to their own perceptions of being Christian, and not conforming to the taught principles, there is little to no respect for the other man to whose views you may not conform or find palatable.

Our money paid for that injunction and Fred's lawyer. Therefore it is in the public interest to stop him or anyone like him (footballers are paid by the fans so they should have the right to a say there too), and he has to face the consequences that a moral society and a just society meat out. I don't mean he has to be stoned by the mob, and that also implies that newspapers often go too far in distorting the truths and mixing stories about peoples' professional and personal lives.

Damn the arrogance of those who use their money to buy or influence repercussions of any kind. It's only a small step further and these people will be paying for people to be bumped off for being a nuisance. Fred can go to hell with his lonliness and knowing that he is despised. He should be stripped of his Knighthood and pension and left alone to fester in solitude probably without friends. Certainly he would still have plenty to live off.

"Contempt is a very serious offence. You either believe in the rule of law or you don’t, you cannot pick and choose as you wish".

....Unfortunately it clearly represents that the law here is an unjust ass in these injuction cases.

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Chris Marsden

May 25, 2011 at 01:00

If Fred the Bed's attention was only 1/1,000,000 affected by his dalliance and his issuing an injunction, when he should have been concentrating on his job, not bringing RBS to it's knees, then that is £45,000 of a reason why the FSA SHOULD be looking at the matter.

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May 25, 2011 at 08:16

If the knighthood was given for services to banking (as someone said here) then what the hell is he doing still wearing it ?

But then look at some of the other "knights of the realm" ..............

Bit of a farce the whole honours list thing anyway.

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May 25, 2011 at 14:02

Clearly he was morally reprehensible in his running of hte bank, which is why it ended where it did. And clearly he was morally reprehensible in his adultery. And clearly the two are two sides of the same coin.

I I had known about the affair he was having at the time, would I have sold my shares? Quite possibly.

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tony levene

May 25, 2011 at 16:57

No one has yet commented on the Hon Zam hyper-injunctin (in today's Guardian) - this seems to be a financial punch-up involving millions with secret court hearings. I expect it will be on some non-UK site or another soon. We have two worlds - the internet savvy who can find things out and the rest of us. It's like the abdication crisis in 1936 - the rich could read French newspapers while the rest of the country rotted in ignorance.

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May 25, 2011 at 19:21

This particular rule of law is out of the reach of most of us. This rule of law judged that it is not in the interest of bank customers and shareholders to know that their bank executives are having a ball at their expense, dipping in the till, dipping other things, and who knows what else.

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Peter Wilkinson

May 25, 2011 at 22:16

High time somebody made the link between Sir Fred`s injunction and the delayed Report on the collapse of RBS by the FSA - due to the injunction???

Now that`s definitely in the public interest!

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May 27, 2011 at 05:44

As much as I dislike Sir Fred, I don't think it's anyone's business what he or anyone else is doing in their private life. I'd rather see efforts put into stopping his pension than anything else.

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May 27, 2011 at 06:47

Tony, that's because nobody else but you reads the Guardian.

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Chris Marsden

May 27, 2011 at 07:22


Of course it isn't UNLESS his randyness costs US £45Bn because he was not doing what he was paid very highly to do.

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Chris Kenney

May 27, 2011 at 10:53

How we all love to bash one man. I suprised that its not being sugested we crucify him so that he can take all the blame.

These are the questions that you should be asking.

1 Where were the regulators when the RBS business model which caused so much trouble was being used?

2 Why did the bank of England not call foul sooner?.

3 What was the government doing at the time?

4 Why did all the savy shareholders (who write about it so vociferously now) not sell and pocket their winnings.

This was not just a failing by one man. It was the physical manifestation of the stupidity and greed of our nation

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John Lacy

May 27, 2011 at 11:05

Spot on Chris Kenney.

Just a small point----it was the job of the useless prats at the FSA to monitor the banks so I'm afraid we'll have to let the Bank of England off the hook.

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May 27, 2011 at 11:34

Too true, what's a financial service?

If you give me your money I'll give you 1%, I'll lend it at 19% and pocket the difference.

Cars crash averaging £x per claim, say 20,000 claims per year, double it and take the money, half for the claims and half for my back pocket, call it insurance.

I'll sort your debts, I'll advise you what to do with your money, I'll sell your house for a 1.5% cut, I'll insure your pets, your life, if I can have a dip to pay for my new villa in the Bahamas.

Financial service, to who? Not surprising the sector attracts every kind of villain, scammers, parasites, bluffers & chancers, smooth talkers and unqualified jokers of all kinds.

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david Bhatti

May 28, 2011 at 07:54

Records of past discussions in the press and even in the Citywire itself will bear out what Christ has said.

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May 28, 2011 at 08:27

@david Bhatt

Christ?! Don't tell me he's getting involved with Sir Fred now. Whatever next? He'll be seen on the moon. I can see the headline: "Sir Fred pocketed £45 billion from RBS so he could visit moon with bit on side."

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May 28, 2011 at 11:59

The simple question to ask (which is a simplified form of the test in Human Rights Act and the recent European case) is, "Do we have a right to know?" Not "Would we like to know?".

Applying that to two cases. First, Fred Goodwin. Liz R puts the case well. As depositors in RBS we have a right to know if the chief executive is misbehaving. However, if he has ceased to be CEO I cannot see why we still have that right. Unless the argument is that RBS continues to tolerate this type of behaviour (not such a strong argument).

Now apply it to Ryan Giggs. There is absolutely no reason why we should know other than prurient interest.

Try it on other examples and you will see that it's not that difficult. The freedom of the press should triumph over the right to privacy only where we have a demonstrable right to know. In the main I would say that we do have that right when it comes to politicians, directors of public companies or other people we rely on in public life if it is a matter that goes to their integrity or trustworthiness.

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david Bhatti

May 28, 2011 at 14:40

Jonathan I made that comment on Chris Kenney's post. It was spelling mistake. However, it sounded funny, did it not?

Do you know you spelled my name incorrectly?

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Chris Kenney

May 28, 2011 at 15:45

To be honest John I am not sure the BOE are off the hook. RBS leant money long on fixed rates and had to borrow short to finance the loans. It was the short term rates going up that put them in trouble, that and lending to people who were none to keen on paying them back.

Though the FSA is supposed to see that they are keeping to the rules its government and the BOE who set the climate these banks function in

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May 28, 2011 at 23:25

Whatever is a "demonstrable right to know"?

My family are affected by everything put in front of them by the media, my three sons, and grandsons have a right to morally good role models. I have no control over the media or selection of footballers but if these people ascend to a public positon where they are visible to my kids, wife, loved ones, then I have a right to expect decent, generally acceptable standards of behaviour.

If these guys are poking their affairs into my living room, if they are making a living on my money, even if they are affecting my life indirectly by contributing to a general moral decline, then I have a right to know so that I can decide if I need to take action, support a different team, change my bank, sell my shares, turn the TV off, protest.

If there is a fair judgement after this life then we will be judged not only on what we have done but on what we have influenced others to do. Any position of authority, stardom, or elevated status brings with it a moral responsibility whether the FSA, BOE, X factor, Coronation St. or any football team.

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May 29, 2011 at 08:18

Sorry, engineertony, but the public has no right to know about the private lives of Corry actors. There is a legal right to privacy. If, God forbid, you were to slip from your own high standards, would it be fair for the NoW to reveal it to a wondering nation?

I'm not saying you are wrong, just that you have set the bar too low.

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Jun 01, 2011 at 19:31

Too late, already slipped, I've experienced the NoW climbing over the back yard wall trying to get pictures, knocking on neighbours doors asking what they thought. Then it was revealed to the wondering nation.

Whole family upset, biggest victim was our Mum, who had nothing to do with the affair, living quite a distance away. She couldn't go out to her Senior citizens, she couldn't face her friends.

But we couldn't afford a superinjunction.

All the same I think I'd like to know if my kid's dentist was a paedophile in his "private life", if my village policeman had a drug dealing record, or the local child minder hiding something.

Of course we all want to hide our skeletons but as things stand, if you are in the public eye, better be good, it looks terrible when these guys have distorted and twisted the facts to sell their papers. And this is the version your friends, and family read.

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