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Too Big To Fail


Some things really are too big to be allowed to fail.

But Rangers Football Club isn’t one of them.

The principle that it is wrong to spend other people’s money, without their permission, in order to advance your own self-centred agenda is a big idea which is absolutely central to the core values of a civilised society.  There’s a closely related idea that  it’s not okay to exploit the good faith of service providers, businesses, emergency services and individual workers,  then leave them whistling in the wind for the payment which they’ve earned.
Those are ideas which are too big to be allowed to fail.

There’s an enduring concept that trustworthiness is a virtue while cynical exploitation of people’s trust is reprehensible.  Similarly, quality of life is generally enhanced when decent people can reap the just rewards of their honest labours without being robbed by scam merchants, fraudsters and sharks.  And that principle, by extension, demands that those who insist on conducting their affairs in an exploitative, predatory fashion must face a level of punishment which is in proportion to the damage they do to their victims.  The penalty for undermining essential foundations of social stability should reflect that selfish parasites and shameless free-loaders are unacceptable infestations which are unacceptable to decent society.
These principles are too big to be allowed to fail.

Vital ideas and fundamental principles such as these are constantly assailed and relentlessly undermined by the very last people for whom we  should go out of our way to offer assistance or protection.  Allowing these people to prosper from their malevolent, anti-social machinations not only encourages them to continue in the same selfish, destructive vein; it also sends out an intolerable and dangerous message to others that the most profitable way to operate is by abusing trust, practising deceit and exploiting vulnerability at every possible opportunity.
Why work for a living when you can steal someone else’s dues?
Why play fair when you can win more by cheating?
Why bother about doing the right thing when moral standards are merely obstacles in the way of your ambitions?

These are the traits of the psychopath.  Psychopathic thinking infects every society where it is allowed to spread.  Where it is not challenged, it takes an ever firmer hold until it ends up overwhelming the decent humanity of the overwhelming majority of the population.  Academic study after academic study has shown that the prevalence of clinical psychopaths is in the region of 4% of our society.  Most people are unaware that it is more common in the boardrooms than in the maximum security prisons; very, very few psychopaths are serial killers or axe-murderers but a hell of a lot of them are at the core of vast financial scams, vulture capitalism, national and international banking scandals, insider trading, fraudulent investment schemes, general corporate misgovernance and money-laundering.

Criminality on that scale adversely affects the 96% of us who, for the most part, just want to get on with our lives in peace with each other.  It corrodes the most basic principles of our communities and sucks the vitality out of a society’s confidence in its own sense of justice, honour, purpose, fairness and integrity.  In short, it attacks all of the most important values which give human beings their deepest, richest sense of well-being.

These are the values which really are too big to fail.
If we them, we lose everything that makes us decent.  What price is worth paying to defend these values?  Downsizing a few football operations, whose worth has been artificially inflated, to a scale that is a truer reflection of their genuine worth is well worth the longer term benefits.  If the prestige of Scottish football depends upon its economy being regularly injected with huge streams of laundered cash; or relies upon unsustainable levels of borrowing from unreliable banks; or cannot function without tax-scams designed to protect some of the highest wage-earners in the country from the demands that apply to the rest of us; if this is what the prestige of Scottish professional football depends upon then that prestige is an illusion for the gratification of fools.

It’s only a bloody game of football.  It is certainly not so important that we need to turn a blind eye to the fact that professional football in its current structure could have been specifically designed by money-launderers as a perfect conduit for cleaning up the proceeds of international drug running, illegal arms dealing, child prostitution and a plethora of other nefarious activities.  The most cold-hearted gangsters on the planet clean up their money in collusion with their criminally-inclined (but ever-so-respectable) collaborators in the boardrooms of all of the major banks and financial institutions.

In other news, Liverpool FC paid £35 million pounds for Andy Carroll.  That’s pretty close to the figure which Dick Advocaat spent in a single season when he was the manager of Rangers FC (now defunct) at around the same time that Dave King “invested” around £20,000,000 of “his own money” in the club.
Former CEO of JJB Sports, Chris Ronnie, has been charged with several counts of fraud and money-laundering.  In 2006, JJB Sports entered into a ten-year sponsorship deal reportedly worth up to £48 million with the now defunct Rangers FC.   By an amazing coincidence, the 322 charges which long-serving Rangers director Dave King faces in South African courts also include fraud and money-laundering.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a bank formerly known as the Bank of Scotland/HBOS/Lloyds handled the accounts of every SPL club except Celtic.  (Latterly, when Vlad took over Hearts, the Jambo’s account was transferred to Romanov’s own bank.)   Every one of those clubs would have struggled desperately to survive if its credit facility had been called in by the bank.  That remains true today.  That left (and still leaves) all of those clubs very vulnerable to pressure from the bank in their handling of day to day business.  Say, for example, that BOS’s successor, Lloyds TSB dearly hoped that enough directors would vote for a certain club to be parachuted straight into the SPL. They would be able to exert enormous pressure on any club which was not enthusiastic about following LTSB’s plan.  Not that I would suggest for a moment that distinguished banking figures would even consider such a shameless piece of blackmail.  Ian Fraser wrote a fine article which shows exactly how honourable and honest high-level bankers really are.
(Just thought I’d mention those few random facts there for no particular reason.)

Anyway.

There is a certain type of mindset which has been unstoppable in its insistence that a now-liquidated football club is too big to be allowed to fail and that the national sport will collapse without it.  I’ve dismissed the stupidity of that position in previous blogs and I feel no need to go over the same ground again.

Instead, I’ll finish off by talking briefly about something completely different.

A mindset which carefully plans a corporate heist to shaft creditors to the tune of up to £150,000,000 before re-emerging on the other side of a long planned liquidation, ready to carry on as if nothing had happened; that is indistinguishable from the mindset of the psychopath.
A so-called businessman who acquires all of the assets of a failed business by effectively paying millions of pounds to the administrators in whose gift the assets lie – and leaving approximately zilch to the hundreds of legitimate creditors of that business – is operating in exactly the way that a corporate psychopath would be expected to.
Administrators who state, upon being appointed, that their responsibilities are to transform an ailing business into a going concern and also get the best possible outcome for its creditors; who charge millions of pounds for their work; who oversee the liquidation of the business; who salvage absolutely nothing at all for the creditors; and who strike an exclusive deal with a man who is willing to pay a sum of money which is almost exactly the same as their extortionate fees – in effect, a bribe – to acquire undervalued assets; such people are classic examples of the psychopathic consciousness at work in corporate life.

This is an evil which is too big to be allowed to succeed.

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Emerald’s Dilemma


I mentioned Suicide by Cop in a recent blogpost because it seems to me that D&P are actively trying to provoke some other party to bring on the liquidation event. They would prefer to be able to blame the SPL or SFA or UEFA or FIFA or HMRC or SVDP or anybody at all for kicking the ladder away from under them just as they were supposedly on the point of delivering the Holy Grail of a successful CVA outcome. The fact that they hadn’t a hope in hell of getting 75% in favour of their derisory CVA proposal would be neither here nor there if they could paint some other party as the baddies who had thwarted their rescue strategy just at the point when it was coming to fruition.

That, however, leaves Emerald Green with a slight problem because he apparently, for reasons which I can’t fathom, had given an undertaking to spend millions of pounds which he does not have – where have we heard that before? – to acquire the mortal remains of the deceased club.  There is a possibility that at some point he had some kind of vague plan to present a regenerated, viable NewClub for future sale.  Or at least to make it look as if that’s what he intended to do.  His get-out clause is that he can’t be held to this commitment if Rangers or Frankenstein’s Rangers are disqualified from any of the domestic competitions. (We must presume that European competitions were not involved in the conditions.)

It looks as if it is now a matter of urgency for Rangers (in administration) to:

a) get themselves disqualified/suspended/expelled/ejected from at least one domestic competition.
The Scottish Cup would do for this purpose, hence the stories before the original SFA Disciplinary Hearing that Rangers (in administration) had sounded out the beaks with a view to intimating that a fine and “ejection” from the Scottish Cup would be acceptable to the Dignified Ones.

b) be seen to have been forced into liquidation by an unseen Fenian hand (including the papists of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs or the Vatican puppets at FIFA or the Opus Dei-infiltrated SFA).

c) achieve both of these objectives, preferably in that order from Emerald Green’s point of view, before the risible CVA proposal is exposed as the crock of horseshit that it undoubtedly is and firmly rejected by the creditors.

I suspect that the members of both the original tribunal and the subsequent Appellate Tribunal were well aware of this and that’s why they tried to improvise a punishment which didn’t quite put Rangers out of business but nevertheless left them facing a formidable challenge in the unlikely event that they’ll still be around to limp onto the starting line for next season’s campaign.  Unable to prevent their seasoned professionals from stampeding out of the club during the close season and unable to register experienced replacements in their place, Rangers would be in very poor shape.

It was an elegant attempt to inflict a painful punishment on the wrongdoers without playing into the hands of any of the miscreants.  Alas, it has been foiled, for the time being, by the ruling of Lord Glennie in the Court of Session that the tribunal was obliged to order a punishment à la carte, as it were.  The tribunal must select one of the punishments already on the menu and no Chef’s Specials are permitted.  However, that is not the victory that it might have appeared to be if, as I suspect will be the case, the tribunal take their time to fins a space in their diaries when they can all get together again.  They could delay this for weeks and that does not suit Rangers at the present moment.

The D&P gravy-train is nearing the end of the line.  All of those delicious millions of pounds which Clark and Whitehouse have been hoovering up over the last four months are nearly finished.  The pesky footballers are once again expecting to be paid the wages which they agreed to when they signed for the club.  D&P want out now and quickly.  A meeting with the creditors has been called for the 14th June.  It is apparently to be a very short meeting with only one item on the agenda.  Might this be the latest possible moment when the court-appointed administration team can fulfil their obligation to inform the hapless creditors that the jig is up and the padlocks are going onto the gates?

If it is, then the need to provoke someone else to cause the liquidation event is now desperate.   One of the last things that Duff & Phelps want to have to do is take full responsibility for having made a complete James Hunt of the administration over the course of the last four months.  (The very last thing that they want to do is walk away without an obscene profit at the expense of the creditors and employees but they have already taken good care of that priority.)

Every party which has had a chance to fire the fatal headshot has held back.  HMRC, the SFA and the SPL have tiptoed all around the houses for months.  That may yet prove to have been not such a bad thing, frustrating though it has been.   It is better that Duff & Phelps should be forced to fall upon their own swords, not least because their professional regulator, the Insolvency Practitioners Association, is currently licking its lips and sharpening its knives in readiness for a forensic examination of the conduct of this bizarre administration process.

Charles Greed is a psychopathic predator who may have originally spotted an opportunity to make a dishonourable fast buck if things had all gone his way but he was wily enough to build in enough conditions to every one of his commitments to make it possible for him to find a way to wriggle free if events took an awkward turn.  And they have become very awkward.  It has become apparent that the mood of the general Scottish football-supporting public is firmly opposed to allowing any form of Rangers to carry on more or less as before.  That is a game-changer in every sense.  Green may have initially believed that the combined forces of the laptop loyal, a short attention span amongst many supporters, SFA President Campbell Ogilvie, the SPL’s spineless Neil Doncaster, various brown brogue-wearing chairmen of other SPL clubs and the scapegoating of Craig Whyte was capable of enabling the switcheroo to proceed, relatively unopposed.  That has proved to be a false expectation.

I think of Greed in terms of the looters who appear in the aftermath of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a devastating hurricane.  Where all around is chaos, carnage and confusion, furtive figures dart in and out of shops and warehouses, grabbing whatever is available or slipping back into the shadows to avoid being caught in the act.  Chaz saw a scene of chaos and carnage and fancied his chances of bagging a few sackfuls of designer trainers but it’s becoming harder and harder for him to smuggle his stash through the cordons and back to his base. The Feds have got an eye on him so he’s pretending to tie his shoelaces while he chooses the best escape route.  In this case, he badly needs Rangers to be ruled out of at least one of next season’s competitions as soon as possible.  It’s just possible that the Tribunal may feel that there’s no point in reconvening to discuss punishments for a club which no longer exists after the L-bomb drops.  That detonation may now be just over a week away.  That is how long Emerald has to weasel his way out of having to make a multi-million pound offer for a business basket case.

Why Rangers Punishment Is Wrong


An Appellate Tribunal has upheld sanctions which were imposed upon a tax-dodging football club by an SFA judicial panel last month.

Rangers (in administration) had appealed against the 12-month transfer embargo and £160,000 in fines imposed on the Ibrox club for a series of disciplinary rule breaches under Craig Whyte’s ownership. On 23 April, Rangers were found guilty of five disciplinary charges, including bringing the game into disrepute. The independent inquiry was chaired by Lord William Nimmo Smith (who is a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session).

A three-man Appellate Tribunal, chaired by judge Lord Carloway (who is a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session) announced their decision to uphold the original decision, despite a legal argument put forward on behalf of the notorious, tax-swindling, bill-dodging football club by leading QC Richard Keen. (Richard Keen QC is NOT a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session).

Rangers (in administration) had contested that Whyte’s actions should be treated separately to those of the arrogant, shameless, cheating, tax-dodging, football club. But the Appellate Tribunal ruled that the original decision was competent as the “conduct involved was attributable to the club as a member of the SFA”.

The tribunal will release a full report of its findings in due course but in the meantime it has revealed a few key points in a short summary.
“It was competent for the disciplinary tribunal to impose the additional sanction of prohibiting registrations of any new players of 18 years or older for a period of 12 months.
The disciplinary tribunal was correct to determine that the conduct involved – especially the deliberate non-payment of very large sums, estimated in excess of £13m of tax in the form of PAYE, NIC and VAT – was attributable to the club as a member of the Scottish FA.

Although the Appellate Tribunal has listened carefully to the representations from Rangers FC about the practical effects of the additional sanction, it has concluded that this sanction was proportionate to the breach, dissuasive to others and effective in the context of serious misconduct.”

Paul Clark, joint administrator (but NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session), said: “The decision by the appellate tribunal to uphold the sanction, namely the suspension of registration of players for one year, is not competent in the view of the Club and its legal advisers.” (Note: the club’s legal advisers are not Senators of the College of Justice, judges of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session).

Such a sanction was not available to the tribunal,” in the opinion of Mr. Clark (who is NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session) “and should not have been imposed and it is the intention of the Club to challenge the determination. The Club will consider seeking review of this most disappointing decision and it is a matter of regret that the certainty and finality Rangers sought on this matter has not been achieved.”

Charles ‘Emerald’ Green (who is NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session) said: “Our group went into the purchase of the Club with this sanction in place but we hoped the decision would at least be commuted. We fully support the Club as it considers an appeal against this latest decision.” The club to which ‘Emerald’ refers is, of course, the dishonest and disgraced Rangers FC (in administration) which has been found guilty by senior judges twice in the last month of bringing the game into disrepute through its deliberate non-payment of £13m of tax.

William Pullar “Sandy” Jardine, spokesman for the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund (but NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session), added: “Rangers supporters will be shocked and bitterly disappointed by this decision and will find it hard to take that the Club has been so heavily punished for the actions of individuals.” What Mr. Jardine means is that Rangers (in administration) should be allowed to spend millions of pounds on acquiring new players instead of paying their taxes.  Even to the point of bringing the game into disrepute.

It is hard not to agree that the punishment which Rangers have been given is seriously wrong.
They are completely beyond redemption, incapable of recognising their guilt and determined to drag every standard of honesty and decency down to the level of shameless cynicism at which they themselves operate.  

Rangers should have been expelled from Scottish football.

Jumping The Shark With Whitehouse And Clark.


In the light of the most recent developments in the ongoing collapse of Rangers FC (in administration), Duff and Phelps have issued yet another statement. Sources in the real world suspect that the statement may have been written on the other side of the Looking Glass by Monty Python during an LSD trip.  This suspicion can be neither confirmed of denied at the present moment.

Unless you look at it.

The latest evolution of the Cunning Plan involves the miraculous recent materialisation of three unknown bidders from an unknown planet in an unknown universe.

One of these beings knows a previously unknown method of persuading HMRC to accept a pennies in the pound settlement from a position where it is owed more than 25% of the total debt.  That this has never, ever, ever happened before is an inconvenient fact which is completely disregarded.
The statement, in the words of Sarah Bell of Duff & Phelps, notes that “if it is a stand-alone CVA then that will take several weeks to do”.
Reassuringly, since one of the “three main factors is timing,”  this is somehow entirely consistent with the Administrators’ hope that they will be “running with one of the parties in the next few days.”
It’s a simple matter of squeezing several weeks into the next few days.
A mere bagatelle.

The other two bids are,  “following the same plan as Bill Miller, ie an asset sale to a newco with the old company exiting through CVA.”
Ah, of course!  That will be the plan which Mr. Miller immediately abandoned as soon as he saw the figures.
Now there’s a reason to be cheerful!

A further boost to the morale is the fact that HMRC have not given an inch,  are closely watching every move and are preparing to fire a fatal head-shot at the moment of their choosing.  Or, as Sarah Bell expresses it, “HMRC are interested to see the merits of each one of the offers and they are open to further discussion with us.”

As further proof that everything is going to be just fine and will probably be sorted out by the end of next weekend, Duff & Phelps have revealed that Rangers(IA) is going to be the only club in Scotland which isn’t offering its supporters any opportunity to buy tickets for next season’s matches.
If that doesn’t inspire confidence, then nothing will.

It really has become pointless to look for any credibility in this increasingly ludicrous farce of a process.  There are now fewer and fewer ways of looking at Clark and Whitehouse’s strategy which make any sense to me.
If we cut through the last few months with the aid of Occam’s razor, this outline fits pretty well;

Craig Whyte chose Duff & Phelps as administrators.
Duff & Phelps “ran the numbers”, and soon concluded that RFC was a hopeless, irredeemable basket case.
After all, it took Miller’s people less than four days to reach that conclusion.
It seems highly unlikely that Clark and Whitehouse still haven’t grasped it.

So. What to do?

The options available were;

Option 1
Find a buyer for the club.
Problem:  Minty had spent four or five years trying to offload it. He finally managed to collect one, single pound sterling.
Conclusion:  No chance.

Option 2
Arrange a CVA.
Problem: With HMRC already having more than 25% of the total debt, the odds that more than 75% of the creditors will accept the proposed CVA are about the same as the prospect of Fergus McCann bailing out Rangers in a sensational gesture of philanthropy.
Conclusion:   No chance.

Option 3
Sit tight, stonewall and collect £200,000 every week while going through the motions of trying to rescue the club for the benefit of the creditors. Leave Whyte, Ticketus, HMRC, the SPL, the SFA, the local newsagent and everybody else to sort out their problems amongst themselves in their own time, at their own expense.  Repeat on a weekly basis until the money completely runs out.  Finally, switch off the lights and go home.
Problem:  What problem?

 

Are Laws only for the Little People?


Sir Isaac Newton told us why
An apple falls down from the sky
And from this fact it’s very plain
That other objects do the same…

But.
If it was up to the courts to rule on the Laws of Gravity, we’d probably spend years hearing legal arguments that an apple falls from the ground up to the tree.

Up until recently I thought that I was more or less keeping in touch with the general shape of the developments as Rangers FC heads into perdition as a well-deserved consequence of the scandalous running of the club for at least the last twenty years.  The charge sheet includes three separate instances of tax fraud which could total nearly one hundred million pounds in unpaid monies to the Treasury.  It also includes routinely running up a preposterous level of debt with no serious prospects of repaying it other than by adding it to the already over-extended overdraft of Murray International Holdings, a liability which eventually exceeded one billion pounds and played its part in the collapse of the Bank of Scotland and its subsequent bail-out, funded by the UK tax-payers.  We’re looking at one of the biggest corporate scandals in Scottish business history.  One would be forgiven for expecting jail sentences to have been handed down to the guilty parties long before now.

And yet I’m beginning to feel that this whole case is becoming too Pythonesque to make any sense.  The latest bizarre twist is the surreal sight of the Administrators of Rangers FC applying to the Court of Session to be appointed … the Administrators of Rangers!
It’s particularly frustrating to me that there seems to be very little overlap between easily understood, natural justice and the immensely complicated procedures of the Law.

Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds have been ripped off by various parties involved with Rangers FC and MIH and it looks increasingly likely that those responsible for these scams are still in with a shout of getting something out of it, even if Rangers itself goes down the pan.
Every time that it looks as if anyone is going to get their comeuppance, another bizarre legal wheeze appears out of thin air, in defiance of all common sense, which muddies the waters and makes it appear that there is always a possible escape route for the shameless and the dishonourable.  Amidst the carnage of the revelations about how Rangers FC has been conducting its business, one of the club’s former directors is still proposing that he will play a leading role in taking the wreckage for which he is partly responsible and turning it into a successful business after it has been liquidated.  There has not been one word from Mr Paul Murray about his moral duty to repay the colossal debts which the club ran up under his stewardship; not a single syllable to suggest that he feels the slightest shame about his part in the reckless business practice of the directors’ board of which he was a member.  No repentance, no remorse, no sign of a guilty conscience.

I have got more money than the likes of David Murray, who was knighted for services to business. Unlike Sir David, I am not in debt to the tune of six hundred million pounds. Yet he is the one who is still living like a king. An entire bank went to the wall to enable that man to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle to which he has accustomed himself. And he’s not even in the picture yet, as far as the Law is concerned!

The Law is taking an eternity to get its act together.  Somehow, when tasked with a case in which somebody pursues his own objectives by spending hundreds of millions of pounds of other people’s money, m’learned friends spend months and years dragging out a tortuously slow series of procedures.  They forensically examine every conceivable interpretation of every obscure contention.  It is as if their primary objective is to find the route by which the most blatant wrongdoing can turn out to be perfectly legal.  And to charge by the hour as they proceed at a glacial pace.
Now, for the first time, I’m genuinely beginning to fear that a fix is in whereby there will once again be no punishment for the villains of the piece while the decent, honest little guys will be the only victims (cf bonuses for bankers).

Something stinks very badly here.  The media, on an industrial scale, have relentlessly covered up as much of the criminality as they possibly could, even after much of it was already public knowledge.  They have weakly claimed in their defence that libel laws prevented them from publishing known facts about the affairs of Rangers and its various directors, even when these facts were already matters of public record.
To take but one example: it would clearly be in the public interest for journalists to regularly scrutinise the ongoing, chaotic tax affairs of Mr. Dave King, Rangers’ second largest shareholder and until very recently a member of the board of directors.  The South African Revenue Service is pursuing literally hundreds of charges of tax irregularities against Mr. King and yet I can think of no example of a single journalist asking the obvious question: why has such a man been a senior director of what we are often told is Scotland’s second biggest institution?

This is not an unreasonable question for a decent investigative journalist to ask, nor would it require much research to pad out.  Merely to copy half of what has already been published in South African newspapers would raise the question.  What is it that prevents the editors of our national newspapers from pursuing this story?  Could it be that their experience in their profession tells them that, no matter how grievous the fraud, the Law will usually find a way to give psychopathic predators a free pass so long as they wear suits and ties?  And therefore, in their judgement, it is always safer to back rogues who have a place in the Establishment rather than trust in the Law’s ability to ensure that justice is done in major scandals?

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