Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Finger Of Blame

Didn't the nuns always tell us that we shouldn't point a finger of blame because the other three fingers were pointing back at us?

Adam Clayton is learning the truth of the old adage.

He gave his assistant, Carol Hawkins, free rein to his bank accounts and she in turn robbed him blind. The lawsuit is still being heard in court, but as far as anyone can tell, the money has been spent and it won't be coming back again, whether Mr. Clayton wins his case or not.

More recently, the U2 bassist has sued his bankers and financial managers. Didn't they notice that there were large sums of money going missing? Where were their keen eyes?

And where were your own two eyes, Mr. Clayton, ask the bankers. Couldn't be bothered looking over the balance sheets, you lazy sot. Don't go blaming us for your lack of oversight.

Not so fast goes Mr. Clayton. You, Mr. Banker, called me in the first instance, back in October of 2009, to alert me to certain odd banking transactions that were caused by Ms. Hawkins' pilfering. You could have checked into it sooner and I'd not be out over four million euros.

Who was it who kept the woman on after she confessed in 2008 to helping herself to your bank accounts, says the bankers. If you'd given her the sack then, you could have prevented a large part of the fraud yourself.

In the end, it's the employees of Bank of Ireland Private Banking Ltd. who have more to answer for. Their job, for which they were paid, was to mind Mr. Clayton's money. That includes asking questions about odd transactions and sums of money going missing when the money's owner is nowhere near the bank from which the money is being taken. They were supposed to be minding the till so that Mr. Clayton could go make music and not worry about his financial future.

It's a matter of due diligence for the money's owner to check up on things from time to time, but a man who plucks metal strings on an electric bass guitar knows his limitations when it comes to money. Investments, tax dodges and the like can be complex and tricky, and so a smart man hires a smarter man to do the heavy lifting. Would Mr. Clayton have understood the balance sheets if he'd tried to read them?

Mr. Clayton's desire to fast-track the case into the Commercial Court has been denied. Instead, the High Court can listen to the bickering and watch fingers of blame point in all directions. Then the judge will have to assign the proper proportions of the blame pie to the musician, the bankers and the accountants. No one's hunger will be satisfied.

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