On 24 April, Scott London, the former head of the southern California audit practice for KPMG, one of the world’s “Big Four” audit companies, was jailed for 14 months.
He had pleaded guilty to leaking information to cronies so that they could profit in share trading. He got bribes in return, including packs of money wrapped in paper bags and handed to him in car-park rendezvous.
The “Big Four” used to be the “Big Five”. The other giant audit company, Arthur Andersen, collapsed in 2002 after being found guilty of criminal charges about its auditing of the energy company Enron.
Auditors are supposed to be the special detachment of the capitalist class which restrains and prevents the possible sharp practices of the rest. Evidently they are as shady as the rest.
The next day, the government-owned bank RBS had to abandon plans to pay top bankers bonuses twice their annual wages. They will have to make do with bonuses equal only to their annual wages.
Overall, bankers’ bonuses worldwide have increased about 29% this year, compared to last. And the UK has 2,108 investment bankers getting more than one million euros a year. The next highest number in Europe is for France, with just 117.
And now bankers are being paid “allowances” as well as bonuses. As Jamie Robertson of the BBC puts it: “Bankers’ bonuses... haven’t shrunk in any way. Far from it. But nowadays they are called ‘allowances’, and as such slip neatly out of reach of... the new rules from Brussels on bonus capping” (24 April).
Meanwhile, wages in Britain still lag behind pay rises, unless you count in bonuses which most workers don’t get.