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Throw bankers into sacks of snakes

There's an interesting little story that's been picked up from a Vince Cable article back in October, where he wrote:

"One of the first recognisably modern financial crises was the South Sea
Bubble in 1720. Many thousands of sane British citizens – including Sir
Isaac Newton – invested their savings in a scam and were impoverished
when it burst. There was much anger and parliament debated the
proposition that the promoters should be sewn into a sack with
poisonous snakes and thrown into the Thames."

This is actually a variation of a Roman punishment called Lex Pompeia, and the punishment was meant to be that each director of the South Sea Company that caused the crisis was tied into a sack with a dog, a cock, a viper and an ape in each and then drowned in the River Thames.

Today's modern equivalent is to throw bankers into congressional and treasury select committee hearings, a modern day room full of snakes, dogs, cocks and apes.

In these hearings Ken Lewis, Chairman & CEO of Bank of America, called for "some humility" from the banking community whilst Stephen Hester, CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland, said that bankers' bonuses were "too big".  Everyone apologised for their failings and it was all a big ding-dong.

The failed UK banking bosses were grilled (transcript summary and unedited in full), as were the current UK and American bosses (transcript).

"Bashing bankers is the latest sport", says the Economist, and many others are queuing up to throw their rocks.

The thing is that sticks and stones can break some bones, but names cannot hurt.

I'm sure that, if the sacks full of of snakes were still available, the politicians would have used them by now.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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