Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 22 February 2009

Yet another naked emperor...

Once more, with a horrible inevitability, the financial world is reeling from the shock as investors discover they have been, for want of a better word, had. If it was all a con, this was one on the grand scale. Forget Madoff's country club golf amateurs; Stanford had the real deal on the payroll (and the polo players, the footballers and the pop stars).

Not for him a hired limo and a briefcase full of plain paper hidden under real money; Stanford settled for nothing less than a flashy helicopter and a vast perspex crate with more notes on view than most of us see in a lifetime. With 20/20 hindsight (no pun intended), what we were seeing could have been a supersize version of BBC 1's 'Hustle'.

It's all about credibility, about establishing a brand; Sir Allen Stanford used sport (and sportsmen) to make himself - and by extension his companies - a household name. It's an old game but it works every time; as Paul Newman tells Robert Redford in 'the Sting',
"You can't do it alone, ya know. It takes a mob of guys like you and enough money to make 'em look good."
Trouble is, that's standard business practice these days - everyone's at it. Straight or crook, there's no way to tell until the heads start to roll. We've had our collective fingers burned twice already; who knows how many more business empires may yet end up on the Emperor's catwalk?

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