THE SUB-PRIME mortgage meltdown was rumbling ever-louder in the background, but the 2006 meetings of the Federal Reserve were still a laugh a minute.

The transcripts of that year’s meetings of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee were released at the end of last week after a standard five-year delay. But for readers who didn’t spend their weekend digesting the thousand-plus pages, The Capitalist here cuts to the as-yet-unsung “highlights”.

“I notice that you are without a Hawaiian shirt,” opens Cathy Minehan, the then-head of the Bank of Boston to chairman Ben Bernanke in March – a month when William Poole, then-head of the Bank of St Louis, later sagely observes: “It is a great delight to see a 200 per cent increase in the number of beards around this table.”

The central bank comedy continues in October, when board governor Frederic Mishkin describes the current monetary policy report as “really terrible”. “It’s dull, it’s sex made boring,” he complains. “I don’t want to criticize [sic] too much, but it is.”

And in December, the Fed’s ex-head of research and forecasts Dave Stockton tells a joke about a dying man whose doctor advises him to marry an economist. “The man asks whether this will really help him live any longer than six months,” regales Stockton. “The doctor says, ‘No, but it sure will feel a lot longer.’” On that point, at least, The Capitalist agrees.

WHAT GOES around comes around. Keith Butler-Wheelhouse, the former chief executive of FTSE 100 technology firm Smiths Group, was 15 when he left Walsall to emigrate to South Africa with his parents.

And today, The Capitalist hears, the long-serving chief executive known for his year-round tan and trademark moustache is returning to his roots as he becomes chairman of Walsall-based Chamberlin, the Aim-listed engineering group led by Tim Hair.

Ex-Gartmore star Gervais Williams, the MAM Funds managing director who bought a 4.7 per cent stake in the specialist castings and engineering business last July, will no doubt be first on the phone to offer his congratulations.

IT’S ALL about “young talent”, said culture minister Ed Vaizey as he admired the work of photographer Noemie Goudal at the Corinthia Hotel on Friday.

Goudal, you see, is the inaugural artist in residence at the Whitehall hotel, as decided by Vaizey and fellow judges including Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens (pictured left, on the left, with Vaizey). Goudal’s pictures will be displayed at the Corinthia, the latest opening from hotelier Alfred Pisani’s Malta-listed International Hotel Investments, from April.