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Occupy London meets FSA and engages with the City; First statement of Economics Working Group

 

*** Update – minutes for the meeting with the FSA are now available at Occupy London meets FSA – Minutes 7 December 2011 ***

  • Following meeting with FSA, Occupy London’s Economics Working Group publishes first statement calling for banks and financial institutions to be accountable to society, a clampdown on tax avoidance and the need for independent and effective regulation
  • Occupy London to host open discussion series entitled ‘Occupy London and the City engage’, organised by Occupy London’s Economics Working Group. First event tomorrow with John Wilkes, Director of Anglo-Suisse Capital, and Polly Toynbee, Guardian

Last night, nine representatives from across Occupy London – part of the global movement for social and economic justice – met with Hector Sants, CEO of the Financial Services Authority at St Ethelburga’s Tent at the Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the heart of the City of London.

Also in attendance were Ken Costa, former Vice-Chairman of UBS Investment Bank and Chairman of Lazard International, the Bishop of London Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, Robert Gordon of St Paul’s Institute plus representatives of St Ethelburga’s. Minutes, taken by Occupy London and St Paul’s Institute will be published shortly.

Occupy London would like to thank Hector Sants for having the courage of his convictions and deciding to engage in dialogue with Occupy London. Occupy London feels that this may be an instructive example for others to follow – at any rate a more productive example than the ones set by those who would dismiss legitimate protest with derogatory terms or attempt to invoke a culture of fear. [1]

In the meeting, Mr Sants encouraged the Occupy movement to approach and engage with the formal political process, represented by organisations like the Treasury Select Committee.

Richard Paton, a supporter of Occupy London who attended the meeting, commented: “The one per cent still have us over a barrel, in a system which the entire political class seems either too compromised or too craven to take on. Portfolio managers will be able to veto efforts here to make banks safe, even though much of their speculating is useless.  It’s not just a question of “rewards for failure”, or bankers’ bonuses.  Even when investment banking activity is successful, it exposes us all to useless risk of the bankers’ continued feeding frenzy.

“There is a clear need for government and regulators to act internationally if they are to be part of the solution to the rampant iniquities the global financial sector have caused. There needs to be real and meaningful engagement by governments, regulators and the business community with the real people who affected by the lack of ethics and morality endemic in the financial system, for which the Occupy movement is acting as a lightning rod. No more “get ouf of jail free” cards for the City of London Corporation and their ilk.”

As he was leaving the meeting, Hector Sants said: “They undoubtedly believe the financial system needs to change further – it has already changed a lot but it should change further. We had a very interesting discussion, a number of very interesting points were raised. I learned a lot, I listened and I got a very fruitful and constructive dialogue, which as far as I can judge I think all parties felt. We were talking about the role the FSA plays in overseeing the financial system in the UK, how we are already going about trying to achieve significant change, and I was listening carefully to those areas where they would like to see further change.”

Occupy London’s Economic Working Group sets out initial statement

Occupy London’s Economic Working Group today publishes its initial statement, which was passed by the General Assembly by St Paul’s Cathedral on 6 December. This statement is intended to be a springboard for discussion, both within Occupy LSX and beyond, about how to achieve the transformation necessary to address the economic crisis and urgent and profound changes required, “both small and immediate as well as radical and systemic”. [2]

It also outlines outline some of the major issues in the current economic system that need to be addressed including:

1. Banks and financial institutions need to be accountable to society

2. Current austerity measures are making a bad situation worse

3. The current economic system is unsustainable

4. Tackle systemic economic inequality

5. Clamp down on tax avoidance

6. Independent and  effective regulation

The full statement is given below.

This Friday – Launch of ‘Occupy London and the City engage’

At 12.30pm tomorrow (Friday 9 December), Occupy London will host the first in a series of open discussions, entitled ‘Occupy London and the City engage’, organised by Occupy London’s Economics Working Group.

Polly Toynbee will chair a discussion with John Wilkes, Director of Anglo-Suisse Capital, a merchant banker with experience of the London Stock Exchange, private equity, the banks, regulation and free markets. This is the first in a series of ‘Occupy London and the City engage’, in which we will create the space to have frank and robust conversations about the pressing economic, social and political issues that confront us today. The Economics Working Group will use this as a forum to work on specific proposals. Everyone is invited to bring their experience and expertise and be part of the process of developing solutions.

The second event as part of the series is scheduled for 1pm Friday 16 December focusing on proposals to address tax havens, which have been identified as a pressing problem by both Occupy London’s Economics and Corporations Working Groups.

 

Notes

[1] Boris calls for judges to have the courage to remove ‘crusties’ –

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-mayor/article-24010037-boris-calls-for-judges-to-have-the-courage-to-remove-crusties.do / Do the City of London Police really see Occupy London’s peaceful protesters as domestic extremists? – http://occupylsx.org/?p=1924

[2] Full Occupy London Economic Working Group Initial Statement detailed below:

This is Occupy London’s Economic Working Group initial statement, which was passed by the General Assembly by St Paul’s Cathedral on 6 December

Our economy is in crisis and urgently requires profound changes; both small and immediate as well as radical and systemic. This statement is intended to be a springboard for discussion, both within Occupy LSX and beyond, about how to achieve this transformation.

Occupy LSX has been labelled as many things but what unites us is our commitment to economic justice  and social equality. We are part of a worldwide movement working to  create a more equitable, democratic and sustainable society which will ultimately benefit everyone. Below we outline some of the major issues in the current economic system that need to be addressed.

1. Banks and financial institutions need to be accountable to society

Financial institutions have increased in size to dominate our economy but have not become socially accountable in line with their increased power. Since 2008 hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and millions have experienced pain and hardship because of reckless financial practices. The debts incurred have been loaded onto almost every person in this country while a wealthy elite further enrich themselves. Despite promises of reform,  banks have been allowed to continue business as normal. Remuneration practices that irresponsibly reward risk and speculative behaviour must end, and deeper structural changes must follow, or our financial system will inevitably continue to fail.

2. Current austerity measures are making a bad situation worse

The UK government’s approach is damaging its own citizens now and the future of generations to come. Cuts to public services are having a disastrous impact on education, employment, business, health, social care and law and order. We oppose the unfair cuts and regressive taxes, currently inflicted on those vulnerable groups least able to bear the  burden. Women especially pick up the pieces, often through unwaged work. Deep and painful cuts, coupled with increased taxation, have been put in place based on political motives and flawed beliefs. The strategy is misguided, damaging and not working.

3. The current economic system is unsustainable 

Our economy encourages short-term profit at the expense of long-term sustainability. Not only does it precipitate environmental damage, it is also ill equipped to remedy it. It has fuelled a proliferation of financial debt and is piling  up ecological damage that future generations may never be able to repair. The climate crisis and dwindling energy and mineral resources, land  to build and produce food on, and the growing population, are incompatible  with the prevailing economic strategy. We must rewrite the rules of the economy in the interests of sustainability and wellbeing.

4. Tackle systemic economic inequality 

The economic system we live in increasingly benefits the few over the many. We believe it is  fundamental to the future health of society to reduce economic inequality  and its grave social consequences. There has been a widening of the chasm between rich and poor in the last 30 years and a persistent gender and age pay gap. Inequality has torn apart families,  left children hungry and without care, pensioners to freeze and turned communities against each other in a battle for housing and other scarce resources. Many within society are burdened with crippling debt. It cannot continue. We must acknowledge the role of the monetary and current tax system in perpetuating and augmenting inequality. It is not enough to redress the excesses of the system: we must reverse the damage done.

5. Clamp down on tax avoidance 

Our economy allows widespread avoidance of tax by those able to afford it. There has to be reform  to the tax system to ensure that those with the greatest capacity to pay tax do not have the greatest capacity to avoid it. We must abolish the use of tax havens and complex corporate tax structures and loopholes that allow corporations, financial institutions and the wealthiest individuals to avoid contributing their fair share to society.

6. Independent and  effective regulation

We call for effective regulation that works for the good of our society. Regulators must be totally independent, transparent, publicly accountable and provided with proper enforcement powers. Dangerous and highly leveraged trading practices have not been regulated properly. Britain must cease obstructing international efforts and take the lead in developing stronger  regulation.

The St Paul’s Institute found that 75% of financial services workers agree with us that the gap between rich and poor is too wide [3].  Occupy London is creating an open, participatory space to confront the problems at the heart of our financial system, outside of the confines of current political discourse.  

[3] St Paul’s Institute – Value and Values report –  http://www.stpaulsinstitute.org.uk/Reports

 

 

19 Responses to “Occupy London meets FSA and engages with the City; First statement of Economics Working Group”

  1. Thanks for organising this. I hope it is the first of many. You have my support.

     
  2. Hi, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Economic Working Group meeting in the Paternoster pub on the 11/11/11 and take part in the discussion around the EGW’s initial statement. Glad to see that’s it’s now been approved by the GA, and I think this statement form’s a good solid foundation on which to build in the future. Hope to come back up to OLSX and hopefully take part in other such meeting’s.

     
  3. I feel that an encompassing issue is that of Corrupt Behaviours — eg Expenses claimed by Politicians (MPs, Lords, MEPs); Some Journalist eg NOW; News Providers (being corrupt by sensoring news/information); Judiciary (big disparity in interpreting Laws – sentencing Rioters for example); Accountants misrepresenting financial Audits; Regulaors not doing their jobs; ect
    I feel that Occupy lsx should publish a statement about dealing with proven corrupt behaviours and require the most senior person in an Organisation to be made to take responsibilty for corrupt behaviours in their Organisation/Business.

    There should be a statement about dealing with corruption.

     
  4. Excellent work people. Really impressed. Solidarity

     
  5. Incredible work.
    I second the comment about a section addressing systemic corruption too.

     
  6. I can also recommend the following podcast of the St Paul’s Institute Ethical Capitalism discussion, which several Occupy London supporters participated in and debates whether regulation can really deliver an ethical capitalism:

    http://charitiesparliament.podbean.com/2011/12/07/ethical-capitalism/

    Re comments about corruption do agree this would be a good area for occupy to try and do something about.

    In terms of possibly corrupt behaviours I did recently come across the example of Capstone mortgages, who despite administering under 0.5% of the UK’s mortgage market are responsible for 10% of repossessions.

    http://blogs.thisismoney.co.uk/2010/11/capstone.html
    http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-2041353/Acenden-Capstone-Swift-1st–mortgage-torment-FSA-failed-stem.html
    http://www.shaunparker.info/capstone-mortgages-beware/655283
    http://www.acendenactiongroup.co.uk/

    Not sure where the best place to take this kind of activity up would be – the Economics Working Group has a policy focus, rather than a legal background.

     
  7. i cannot go along with the above positive statements. I find that the statement is scarcely ground-breaking, nor revolutionary but simply a repetion of what many NGOs have been saying for decades.

    Compare Statement 3 which declares “The climate crisis and dwindling energy and mineral resources, land to build and produce food on, and the growing population, are incompatible with the prevailing economic strategy.”

    Yet the statement consists of calling for tinkering with the rules that simply do not address those issues and even if implemented would not do so.

    i suggest that the Occupy movement does not get drawn into a futile strategy of proposals of how to run capitalism better and stick to the objective of doing away with the system.

     
  8. Hear, hear to Alan Johnstone.
    This system will only accept trivial reforms which will do nothing to affect the scale of the problems we face. The Occupy movement correctly notes that many things have gradually become worse over the years – worse, not better. There has never been a time when reforms of one kind or another have not been called for by one sector or another. Please do not let yourselves get drawn into the illusion that this time you’ll be listened to and will have your grievances answered.

    Reforms have brought us to where we are today. More of the same just won’t do. What we need is fundamental system change.

     
  9. This approach implicitly accepts and legitimises the existing paradigm.

    I think we should take a ‘reality-based’ approach, through proposing – and even implementing eg by issuing ‘London Stock’

    http://nordicenterprisetrust.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/a-stock-answer/

    as Occupy currency – complementary solutions which are the ‘adjacent possible’ which will work in the here and now.

    1. Banks and financial institutions need to be accountable to society

    In a world of direct instant connections, banks and financial institutions are simply obsolete. They are already ceasing to be middlemen and transitioning to service provision (which requires very little capital) and this is why commodity and equity markets have become detached from reality and are currently in collapsing financialised bubbles.

    2. Current austerity measures are making a bad situation worse

    True. And what practical steps should we take?

    I advocate the issue of London Stock. Occupy LSX could start a ‘London Stock’ Exchange of credit issuance tomorrow…..

    3. The current economic system is unsustainable

    Yes. So let’s specify how to change it through a transition to an energy-based economy.

    4. Tackle systemic economic inequality

    Yes. So let’s set out a 21st century legal and financial framework to address this. the existing structures – public and private – are obsolete.

    5. Clamp down on tax avoidance

    The best way to do this is to re-invent the State, Corporations and Markets and dispense with tax altogether in favour of revenue and production sharing agreements. Michel Bauwens can give you background on how a Peer to Peer and Peer to Asset/Commons approach can work.

    6. Independent and effective regulation

    The best regulation is self regulation – by sellers and buyers collectively, as opposed to middlemen operating ‘for profit’

     
  10. I agree with Alan and Janet above. The strength of the Occupy movement comes from its position outside conventional politics. Negotiating with those in the financial sector is setting the bar far far too low in terms of what we can achieve through a mass movement for real change. We are many, they are few but now the occupy movement is pandering to their (and the corporate media’s) demands to be ‘reasonable’. This will be the death knell for the movement. If these ‘negotiations’ continue, the movement will safely be neutered and the 1% can carry on like they’ve always carried on, albeit with a few more crumbs offered from their table.

    Please don’t play their games!

     
  11. Whatever happened to “anti-capitalism”? This is just trying to patch up the capitalist system.

     
  12. In the US the Occupy movement has been assaulted violently by cops and the local state from pillar to post and subject to vicious intimidation and eviction. In response they continue to re-occupy central locations and to spread the actions to point of immediate conflict such as the ambitious West Coast Port Shutdown on Dec 12th and the amazing 50 city strong re-occupation of foreclosed homes on Dec 6th. They might call this ‘sticking it to the man!’.

    In London it seems the point of interest is to meet with bankers and hang out with other total waste of spaces such as Polly Toynbee so as to appear fair and well-balanced and engaging with all sections of the political class. And to jolly up to The Guardian too.

    This is truly depressing shit, my friends. It’s hardly a new form of poiitics. It’s the same old class ridden politics of the UK for the last 300 years – liberal, sensible, reforming, balanced all the while the class war continues unabated with no concern for such niceties as fair play, a nice chat and a handshake. Austerity is class war. It takes from those who have the least because that’s the current way the capitalist class can make it’s money, the profits of finance being so fucked up now.

    Occupy London G.A can agree a statement that on the one hand calls for banks to be reformed and then further down notes that the problems of inequality are systemic. Yes, that’s right, the global financial institutions and government are the system that creates the poverty and violence of capitalism. How do you reform this?

    Certainly not by meeting folks from UBS, the FSA, the corporate media and having a nice chat. What a luxury! Maybe the starving masses of Haiti should convene a nice reconciliation meeting between the 5 ruling families of Haiti and the corporate business and themselves and see what is possible.

    Here was a good response from the folks of Bhopal to Dow Chemicals and the London Olympics:
    http://vastminority.blogspot.com/2011/12/indian-protesters-block-trains-and.html

    Maybe they should all sit around a table instead?

     
  13. Talking with the FSA – the Fundamentally Supine Authority? Come on people – this is the shower that has been facilitating the daylight robbery that is going on. You cannot negotiate with these people and those they serve; they will ignore or renege on every single commitment they grant you. The system has to go.

     
  14. I have been at Occupy London for the last four weeks and my group on Law and legal reform was not even notified of the meeting with the FSA or anyone else. This shows complete contempt for your fellow protestors.

     
  15. I was involved in the drafting of this statement and the extent to which it “implicitly accepts and legitimises the existing paradigm” was a concern, which is why the first sentence reads they way it does. The movement spans a huge range of positions from anti-capitalist to reformist and the statement reflects this. I personally would have preferred something more radical but I do honestly think this is a reasonably fair middle ground of camp sentiment. The reason why there are no concrete proposals is we were under pressure to get something out. I know everyone wants to read specific proposals but it is going to take more time and a lot more discussion.

    So, I think it is true it does legitimate that there should be financial institutions, although whether they are private or not is left open. As long as there is money there is probably be a role for depository institutions which collect savings and make loans, but I agree with Chris Cook above that peer-to-peer lending and financing is exciting and interesting. It does legitimate regulation, but it’s likely there will still be role for this in whatever radical alternatives are adopted after this.

    Zina: I think lots of people were unhappy with the haste and lack of discussion which which the FSA meeting was organised. I believe in the end it was discussed at the 1pm GA on the day of the meeting.

     
    • What happens next now that LXS have committed themselves to seeking solutions within the very system which caused the problems and issues confronting the majority? Its back on the merry-go-round of useless reforms for yet another journey of despair and misery, thats what!!!

      Or you could bite the bullet and take that necessary leap in consciousness and honestly admit capitalism has to go. For the solutions have been tried and they only work for a tiny minority.

       
    • Christopher Fraser said:
      “I think lots of people were unhappy with the haste and lack of discussion which which the FSA meeting was organised. I believe in the end it was discussed at the 1pm GA on the day of the meeting.”

      So after the GA, did lots of people became resigned to a fait accompli undertaken by the Economics Working Group or did they actually support such a decision and the way this clique had decided on their behalf?

      Plus Ultra said “I asked several members of the media team whether the issue of CiF contribution had been put before the GA and they replied that it was not. Rather, as the first article – http://piratepad.net/0gNVU4SPj2 – above proves, decisions about media partnerships are taken by those operating as media correspondents for the movement; these correspondents appear to be acting alone – a clear problem which emerges from a movement which stresses consensus and unsupervised division of labour over voting and demand building.”

      Means and ends people. Means and ends.

       
    • Christopher Fraser said:
      “I think lots of people were unhappy with the haste and lack of discussion which which the FSA meeting was organised. I believe in the end it was discussed at the 1pm GA on the day of the meeting.”

      So after the GA, did lots of people became resigned to a fait accompli undertaken by the Economics Working Group or did they actually support such a decision and the way this clique had decided on their behalf?

      Plus Ultra said “I asked several members of the media team whether the issue of CiF contribution had been put before the GA and they replied that it was not. Rather, as the first article – http://piratepad.net/0gNVU4SPj2 – above proves, decisions about media partnerships are taken by those operating as media correspondents for the movement; these correspondents appear to be acting alone – a clear problem which emerges from a movement which stresses consensus and unsupervised division of labour over voting and demand building.”

      Why is there no critique of the media, especially the liberal media like the Guardian with its need to chase advertising revenue?

      Means and ends people. Means and ends.

       
  16. If you seriously think that the financial industry, an industry that will create wars and profit gleefully from disaster, is going to ‘engage’ with you or take part in any kind of ‘conversation’ with you because you slept in a tent and had some articles in the (highly reactionary) Guardian, then you are completely deluded. This is very simple PR stuff, crisis management, and Occupy LSX has had its collective ego flattered enough into going along with it.

     

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