I know this isn't the kind of thing that we bloggers are supposed to admit, but really I have been staggeringly naive about banking in practice.
Let's set the Co-op Bank on one side quickly. I realised that the Co-op Group gave money to the utterly toothless Co-operative Party, and didn't think about it, but I never realised - and this is entirely my fault - that Co-op Bank funded the Labour Party directly. Everybody else seems to have known.
There is no way that I will keep my accounts there if they carry on doing so, no matter how good their call centre is. I joined the Co-op Bank to make the world a better place. Giving money to the Labour Party actively frustrates that objective as far as I'm concerned.
But there is more to confess. For years, I've been hearing rumours and accusations from small businesses that the big banks were deliberately forcing them into difficulties, so that they could drive them into the arms of the equivalent of their restructuring advisors.
I've heard rumours that banks had been going through the fine print of loan agreements in order to force small businesses under.
I never imagined that this might have been a deliberately organised instrument of banking policy, yet that is what the Tomlinson Report suggests, now in the hands of Vince Cable.
The accusation here is that RBS deliberately drove viable small businesses into difficulties, so that they could earn considerable fees from the bank's Global Restructuring Group, and get their hands on their underlying securities and assets.
Vince Cable says the allegations are 'shocking'. Robert Peston says it is "not altogether surprising". I find both of these responses strange. Of course they are shocking. But the truth is that these are by far the most serious allegations made against the big banks so far. They go beyond selling sub-prime mortgages or fixing Libor rates, and yet we appear to have become so used to allegations of very well paid wrong-doing that we barely notice it any more.
If these revelations had been made against small banks, it seems to me that the police would have been called in by now - and quite rightly. We are talking about the theft of people's businesses and assets. We are talking about the deliberate destruction of viable businesses by the only people who can rebuild the real economy: local entrepreneurs.
It is worse somehow than anonymous burglary. It is mugging by those who you trusted and who owed you a duty of care, because you paid them to look after your interests, more like family abuse than fraud.
The Daily Mail led on the story yesterday morning, but generally speaking the story has received far less attention than it should, and very much less than the spectacle of the Rev. Mr. Paul Flowers and the drugs.
So if I were Vince Cable, I would call in the police immediately.
No other news has so emphasised the basic underlying mistake the opinion-formers and politicians have been making about the big banks. They consistently behave as if the sins of the big banks were sins of omission: they failed to lend when they should have done.
The truth is much more worrying, and has been clear long before the recent revelations. They have been actively corroding our local economies and unbalancing the economy.
The Joy of Six 1059
9 minutes ago