On the money with Gavin Hinks

So the fall out from the credit crunch is starting to crystallise into robust
action against those who may or may not have presided over jaw-dropping
corporate errors.

A Bear Stearns fund manager has been charged with misleading investors;
shareholders are suing executives, among them the CFO of Lehman Brothers; the
new executives at Northern Rock have revealed they are looking at the actions of
previous directors and who knows what the trustees of collapsed US mortgage
company New Century will do with company chiefs and the auditors KPMG.

It’s beginning to look like the risks of being associated with any financial
institution found wanting as a result of the credit crunch looks like a
decidedly risky business.

In fact, you have to wonder what the recruitment prospects will be like for
institutions looking for key staff in the wake of the crunch. If you’re an FD,
CFO or decent accountant, right now your best option seems oil, gas or mining.
But whatever you do, don’t go anywhere near an investment bank or anything that
looks remotely like a structured investment vehicle.

But hold on. Is it really so dangerous? At this stage, you’d have to say no.
Given the number of writedowns that have taken place, and the sheer scale of the
sums involved, relatively few face wearing handcuffs in public or extensive time
with lawyers defending a law suit.

In short, stay wedded to accountability and transparency, and make honest
with due care and attention.

This way, even though someone may question your investment judgement, it’s
hard to accuse you of negligence.

Trouble is, the temptation to take the risks, ignore the warning signs, and
to get the bonus may be much stronger. And that means trouble.

Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age

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