A new book on the economic crisis, Masters of Nothing: The Crash and how it will happen again, launched on 5th September, pulls no punches on financial complacency (see John Kay’s article). Written by two Conservative MPs, George Osborne’s former chief of staff Matthew Hancock, and Nadhim Zahawi, it sheds new light on Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former RBS chief.
The authors reveal that Sir Fred “went so far as to refuse to allow his chief economist to attend the select committee of parliament, until the chair of the committee was forced to call and explain that if he chose not to attend he would be summoned, with the full force of the police in reserve.” They are also full of stories of Goodwin’s overbearing tendencies.
In one, “the catering staff were threatened with disciplinary action in an email entitled ‘Rogue Biscuits’ after someone had the audacity to include pink wafers in the executives’ afternoon tea.” In another, staff “went into panic mode” after a window cleaner fell off a ladder in Goodwin’s office and broke a small model aeroplane. Some were said to be more worried about Goodwin’s broken toy than the man. People in the bank “were absolutely terrified of him,” said Peter de Vink, managing director of Edinburgh Financial & General Holdings.