DEBATE: Should we be clamouring to see Fred Goodwin stand in the dock and quizzed over the collapse of RBS?
YES – Sir Vince Cable
Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former chief executive of RBS, was due to take to the witness stand on 8-9 June, as a defendant in a civil case surrounding the bank’s £12bn rights issue of 2008. Now, the case has been adjourned as RBS seeks an out of court settlement – but there remains a chance this fails, and that Goodwin is finally called to the dock. He has spent the past seven years hiding from a public still furious that his dreadful calls – notably the 2007 purchase of ABN Amro – helped bring our economy to its knees. He left RBS in 2009 and was stripped of his knighthood, but has never been properly taken to task. In the meantime he enjoys a £342,500 pension courtesy of RBS, a bank which is still 72 per cent-owned by the state. Thus taxpayers are funding his lifestyle. We should be grateful to the claimants, including thousands of regular men and women, who have pulled him out of hiding. They deserve to see Goodwin stand and answer questions, and so do we.
NO – Alex Deane
Shakespeare says that when the mob in Caesar’s Rome found that they’d caught Cinna the poet not Cinna the conspirator, rather than relenting they cried “Tear him for his bad verses!” Such is Goodwin’s plight: it doesn’t matter if the civil court process now underway is actually the right process to determine fault; the mob wants public shaming and the infliction of pain. Never mind whether the fault is actually criminal; treat him as one. This mentality harms the banking profession, which we keenly need to recover; moreover, it undermines the rule of law by blurring what should be a bright line between unlawful and (even if deeply unattractive) lawful actions. Societies which favour show trials in which demonised enemies of the people are coerced to confess their sins against the state before the tumbrils roll are not pleasant places. We should be firm in our desire to be just – but it diminishes us all when we are vengeful.