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Bankers at bay

Gerry O’Brien asks if Michael Moore’s new documentary will be able to do enough to expose the banking sector’s greed.

Gerry O’BrienMortgage View

Those of us still committed to the mortgage market are cautiously optimistic rather than daunted by regulatory reform – as John F Kennedy said: “In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognise the opportunity.”

We operate in an ever more competitive landscape, competing not only with other local firms and providers’ direct arms but with like-minded firms for the smaller levels of funding available. In turn, brokers are more selective about choosing the right clients in order to access a broad range of products to meet their needs.

However, the tightening of lending criteria does little for financial inclusion and it was left to Mick McAteer to make a stand. He has called for bankers allegedly in line for £6bn of bonuses – just one year after five of our nine biggest banks failed – to donate a percentage to a fighting fund to help those who might otherwise be looking for help from the loan sharks and the Fairpak hampers of this world.

Maverick director Michael Moore’s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, once again strikes at corporate America and this time it is the banks that are on the receiving end for their role in the global economic crisis. Moore challenges the view that the mortgage crisis was caused by sub-prime borrowers and instead blames “the people downtown” for taking bets on money and then bets on the bets.

Our own credit crunch – the deepest recession ever according to miserable Q3 GDP figures – has been blamed on the US sub-prime disaster. But, says Moore, instead of directing our anger at trailer park toxic assets, it is the bankers that created and then exploited the markets.

Moore describes today’s capitalism as legalised greed and calls for a new economic order that is fair – a man after McAteer’s own heart. But are we ever likely to find a happy, middle ground between the extremes of bankers at their worst or the Michael Moores of the world?

Each week there is yet more news of inappropriate behaviour by bankers. The latest is UBS heavily fined for a few of their investment bankers using clients’ assets for illegal trades. Its defence? It happened a long time ago and will not happen again. I am not sure Michael Moore or Mick McAteer will be reassured.

Gerry O’Brien is chief executive of Home of Choice

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