HSBC: Hang the Bastards!!

Back in August 2007 I wrote this:

My application to open an offshore bank account with HSBC has fallen flat on its face.  In order for somebody resident in Russia to open an account on the Isle of Man, they need to have an opening balance of 60,000 Pounds Sterling, which despite my status as cigar-puffing oilman, I do not have.  The reason why they demand such a high opening balance for Russian residents (the normal requirement is 5,000 Pounds Sterling) is because of the risk of “money laundering”.  And that is about as detailed an explanation as I could get.

What is interesting is that HSBC do not advertise this requirement anywhere, it is simply a decision which gets made at the application stage.  Personally, I think the explanation is bollocks.  Anyone wanting to launder money from Russia is probably not going to be doing so in small amounts, and I can’t see how a 60,000 GBP opening balance is going to do anything to discourage such activities.  If anything, putting a maximum balance on the account would be more of a control on money laundering rather than a minimum balance.

And there is a follow-up story to that which I didn’t write about.

A couple of years later I was in London and opened up my RBSi account, thus getting shot of Barclays once and for all.  But just next door to the RBS branch was HSBC, so I thought I’d pop in there to see if I could open an account while I was in the area.  As with RBSi, HSBC has a requirement that you submit a copy of your passport notarised by either somebody in an embassy or somebody in a bank branch (both kind of hard to achieve in Sakhalin).  But whereas RBSi would notarise my passport copy in a branch, hand it back to me, and then allow me to submit this along with my (lengthy) application form all at once later, HSBC insisted that they could not let me leave their branch with a copy of my passport which they had notarised.  Apparently I had to fill all the forms out and then bring them all together to the branch, where they would notarise my passport and send the whole lot to the Isle of Man or wherever themselves.  I didn’t have the completed forms with me, assuming I could do that later.  When I asked them why they had to post everything themselves and why I was not allowed to take the notarised copy of my passport with me, I got a barrage of sanctimonious bollocks about “policies” and “fraud” and “money laundering”.  I was leaving the next day, so I told them to shove it up their arse and walked out, and haven’t crossed the threshold of HSBC since.

I got a similar run-around by Barclays.  They insisted that I had to turn up in person with my passport to do this, that, or the other all in the name of preventing money laundering, and gave me pompous lectures on how seriously they took all this.

But it was all bollocks.  Every time I read of a Nigerian who has been caught embezzling millions, and sometimes billions, of looted monies, the cash is inevitably routed through a British bank with a high-street name.  And this:

A US Senate probe has disclosed how lax controls at Europe’s largest bank left it vulnerable to being used to launder dirty money from around the world.

The report into HSBC, released ahead of a Senate hearing on Tuesday, says huge sums of Mexican drug money almost certainly passed through the bank.

Suspicious funds from Syria, the Cayman Islands, Iran and Saudi Arabia also passed through the British bank.

Because of course, and what is so blindingly obvious, is that these banks are quite happy to throw the “know your customer” regulations in the bin as soon as the sums of money involved are high enough.  Yes, they give self-righteous lectures to ordinary people with salaries who want to open a basic account and make them jump through all kinds of hoops (including making them come in person), but a Mexican wearing bandoliers, a droopy black moustache, and carrying a suitcase bulging with bloody dollar bills gets VIP service.

I hate these fuckers.  I now bank with the Swiss who, although they might be happy to do business with the dodgiest characters in the world, at least don’t pretend otherwise and make life a misery for the “little people”.  I hope the CEO gets the electric chair.

A Night in Eindhoven

Last weekend I found myself in Eindhoven, where I will be for the next two weeks on a business trip, or what the French call “a mission”. 

“On a mission” adequately describes my behaviour on the night flight out of Nigeria, sitting as I was beside a Scottish friend who was demobilising after several years in Lagos.  Sitting at the front of a KLM plane in business class, there is only one thing to do in such circumstances: drink lots.

We did.  Even in the four hours spent in the lounge before boarding (you need to check in early for flights leaving Nigeria to give the customs officials adequate time to rifle through everyone’s bags and steal anything of value) we spent drinking plenty, and once we boarded we didn’t slow down.  I think I finally got some sleep at about 2am after at least two stewardesses asked us to kindly shut the fuck up as people were trying to sleep, but not before vodka, wine, cognac, and port had gone downrange.  I arrived in Amsterdam at 5am jetlagged as hell, regardless of the time difference being only an hour.  I’ve written before about the efficiency of the Dutch train system out of Schiphol and I took full advantage of it again to get me to Eindhoven with minimal fuss, into my hotel, and to bed before 11am.

I was not due in the office of our contractor until Monday, having taken the Friday night flight because there was no space on the Saturday flight.  So I did some research online and found that Eindhoven has a pretty lively nightlife, one of the main parts of which is the Stratumseind, a 200m stretch of some 40 bars and clubs which the various guides said was the place to be on a Saturday night.  So off I trundled at about 11:30pm, it being only a few minutes’ walk from my hotel, and poked my head into several places, necking a drink in each one.  And at some point between the fourth and fifth whiskys it dawned on me that perhaps travel guides (or at least those pertaining to nightlife) were not aimed at 35 year olds.  I recall the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides being pretty much written for my age group, but now I think about it the last time I used one was about 8-10 years ago.  The Stratumseind seems to be a student area, for attendees of both universities and secondary schools.  I was the oldest bloke in each place by about 15 years.  I was even older than the bouncers, I think.  What made it worse was that this street is where kids go when they’re 16 and 17 and want to drink underage, and half of them were being let in.  The other patrons must have been wondering who brought their dad along.

So feeling a bit disappointed (having hoped for at least a live band), I wandered towards Wilhelminaplein where I had spotted a small but lively looking bar earlier in the evening.  It was lively all right, filled as it was with men and women between 45 and 65 absolutely smashed and behaving like teenagers.  It was the most bizarre pub I’ve ever been in, and having spent a few years last decade seeking out every weird spot east of the Oder, that’s saying something.  The men were old, sported lumberjack shirts or shell-suit tops, and had dodgy, grey porno ‘taches.  The women had short, bleached hair, lots of cheap jewelry, too many wrinkles, and a good many had big fat arses.  And as I said, everyone was absolutely hammered.  Not a bit drunk, I mean proper arseholed.  One couple, who did not leave together, were deep snogging at the bar as if they were 16 and in Magaluf.  Another crashed into me while trying to dance, lost her balance, and had to be caught by the doorman before she went head-first into the ladies toilet door.  Everybody seemed to know everyone, and I stood out like a sore thumb.  The other patrons must have been wondering who brought their son along, and I skedaddled before any of the grannies made a move to find out for themselves.

I wandered back to the hotel feeling even more disappointed, and plonked myself at the hotel bar, which had closed 20 minutes before.  I must have looked like a right sad-case.  Anyway, I was directed down the street (fortunately, the city centre in Eindhoven is tiny) towards a street where all the adult clubs were, and set off with slightly higher hopes.  When I got to the street I found three people pissing into an outside urinal, which I suppose is better than just pissing on the street which they do back home.  But not exactly a good sign nonetheless.  There were two clubs almost right next to each other, both with huge queues controlled by large gorillas and looking very much like the noisy, expensive, crowded, and ultimately shite nightclubs back in the UK.  I didn’t even bother trying to get in.  I started back to the hotel and passed a pub with what seemed to be a club in the ground floor.  I went in and found myself in the bar in Star Wars.  There were women sporting full-length arm tattoos and wearing leopard print welly-boots.  There were hard looking men with neck tattoos, barging into anyone who was deemed to be in their way.  Drinks were served in plastic glasses of the type which coffee machines dispense.  A 40-year old woman in a track suit danced like she was still 17 and going to Rotterdam techno nights in warehouses, only stopping now and again to snog a Surinamese chap wearing a football shirt.  The place was a serious shithole of British seaside resort proportions.  It was time to leave.

The next day I met up with a colleague who is a native of Eindhoven, who had a hearty laugh when I told him of the granny bar and the teeny-boppers down Stratumseind.  Apparently there is a somewhat more sophisticated area the other side of the town centre which I had missed, so next weekend I will have another go.  This is just as well, because I had recently read that the allies bombed Eindhoven to rubble in support of Operation Market Garden, and as I went to bed last Saturday I was thinking it would be a good idea if they did the same thing next time the Parachute Regiment do their annual remembrance jump at Arnhem.

On Getting Hoofed from a Major

Tim Worstall is surprised by the low number of teachers sacked for incompetence in England and Wales: just 17 of about 440,000 in the 10 years between 2001-2011, or less than 2 per year.

A 0.00045% get rid of the idiots rate just doesn’t look like anyone is taking hunting for the idiots seriously.

Which made me comment that in a major oil company, this would be a bloodbath!

Seriously, does anyone think of Shell’s 90,000 employees 40 were sacked last year for incompetence?  Or ExxonMobil canned 37 staff for the same reason?

Even following Macondo I’m not sure anyone was fired from BP.  Sure, Tony Hayward was removed as CEO but I’m not sure he was dismissed from the company, and as far as I know he resigned of his own accord shortly afterwards.  Maybe the driller who was company man on the Deepwater Horizon was sent packing, but being the key man in a $30bn incident is about what you have to do to get the boot.

Usually, incompetents just get promoted to  a position where it is hoped they will do less harm…

Barclays Caught Lying? Quelle Surprise!!

Apologies for the lack of posts, I’ve been both busy at work and travelling a bit and I’m in the middle of an enormous post on a trip to Germany which is taking a while.

But this I want to comment on:

Barclays Bank PLC Admits Misconduct Related to Submissions for the London Interbank Offered Rate and the Euro Interbank Offered Rate and Agrees to Pay $160 Million Penalty

So Barclays Bank has been caught lying through its arse, eh?  That’s strange, I always thought Barclays were such paragons of honesty and competence.

What a shame!