The Insider

Group hugs and punctuation

There’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the Dunkirk spirit. Poor old lenders have come in for a bit of stick of late, with many people crying foul about the timing of product withdrawals.

But the squeals from the Treating Customers Fairly brigade seem disingenuous when you consider that if lenders didn’t pull products they might go down the tubes. This wouldn’t be customer friendly never mind fair, would it?

The group hug organised by John Malone and his merry men has given us the opportunity to see some of the market back the lenders while others are playing hardball on the product withdrawal fiasco and demanding a code of conduct.

I read Malone’s open letter a number of times and felt a bit like Muriel Spark’s Jean Brodie. I’ve always suffered from the grammatical snobbery borne out of a classical education. It raises my blood pressure when I see misplaced punctuation marks, never mind anything else.

But really,the open letter deserves a C-minus when it comes to proper English. I was aghast at some of its schoolboy errors that would have earned a late detention during my school days – misplaced commas and full stops and worst of all the inappropriate use of words.

In fact, the errors were so numerous that at times it was difficult to get to grips with what was being said. After a while I began to wonder whether the errors weren’t errors at all but in fact intentional.

There’s nothing like a good old conspiracy theory, especially when political manoeuvrings are afoot. But making a written piece unintelligible means you can clarify what you meant at a later date. That can’t be the case here … can it?

On face value, I think the open letter’s sentiment was reasonable. In this world of victims and culprits it’s good to see there’s still room for a reasonable and sympathetic stance. Perhaps a code of conduct isn’t a bad idea after all.

The FSA also seems to be clear about the TCF position on product withdrawals – it has ignored the issue. So terrified is it of another Northern Wreck that it seems to think the best thing for the market is for lenders not to lend. To add insult to injury, I understand the regulator has been putting further pressure on lenders by demanding almost daily liquidity reports.

Would you as a lender take the risk of incurring the wrath of the FSA or would it be easier to upset a few thousand brokers and their clients?

PS Any classically educated scholars out there are welcome to lambast my grammatical misdemeanours