They have enough difficulty handing over records to constituted authorities
in the case of alleged wrongdoing.
I am not being critical. It is to the profession’s credit that, unlike US, in
this country leaking is not something which comes naturally.
But it is equally difficult for journalists who are subject to a daily
barrage of leaks – most of them utterly self serving, partial or inaccurate – to
understand what level of paranoia would drive the chairman of Hewlett Packard to
employ private detectives to find the source or why these detectives were kept
on such a loose rein that they used illegal methods to obtain phone records and
also hatched a plot to pose as cleaners to get inside the local office of the
It was interesting therefore to note the intervention in a letter to the
Financial Times from Martin Taylor because he has been on both sides of
the fence. When we first met in 1981 he was the head of Lex in the
Financial Times. After that he went off to run part of Courtaulds and
then became chief executive of Barclays Bank in 1994.
Taylor was venomous about leakers, calling them ‘despicable creeps’. His
problem at Barclays was that other executives who have been passed over saw him
as an outsider, closed ranks against him and made it impossible for him to get a
grip on the organisation.
Seeing the resultant drift,one of the non-executives started leaking and
eventually prompted his resignation – but only after four years in the job.
The leaks must have been unpleasant, but it was his lack of success in
imposing his will on the bank, not the leaks, which were his downfall.
Anthony Hilton is finance editor of the Evening Standard
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