Robin Hood Tax: opponents need to be a bit more honest
There has been a rash of newspaper articles this month claiming that the Robin Hood Tax (and in particular the soon-to-be-implemented EU Financial Transactions Tax) would be bad for the economy, the City of London, pensioners … indeed pretty much everyone, probably including pets. But what these stories really mean is that the tax is opposed by ‘financial interests’. Some news outlets have reported the opinions of such financial interests as objective statements of fact, and few have explained that the people complaining are the people who really will end up paying the tax – hardly unbiased sources. Apparently, Barclays even called the tax “politically motivated” – the horror!
But this isn’t just the financial media lazily reprinting the sector’s press releases without scepticism, scrutiny or analysis (although that is certainly partly true – see this example which confuses the Hungarian tax on all bank withdrawals with a tax on financial transactions.) Nor is it just more of the finance sector just not getting that people are no longer taken in by their claims that the work they do is vital the our wellbeing (even after their work has created misery for so many and persistent economic problems for the entire planet!) Although it’s that too – see this laughable example.
No, in some cases, it’s even worse: the source material itself is sometimes staggeringly dishonest, suggesting that the sources of such ‘assessments’ of the tax are acting solely in the interests of the population as a whole. They would be shocked, shocked I tell you, if it was suggested that their top priority was safeguarding their own wealth…
I think that the most egregious example (but you may know better) comes from ICAP, which the Financial Times (which does have a track record of partiality on the FTT, but in this case was scrupulously objective) described as “the world’s largest interdealer broker by revenues”. ICAP’s Chief Executive claimed that the EU tax was ‘misguided’ and would have a ‘devastating’ effect on London’s financial sector. ICAP’s report – described as a ‘discussion document’ – at no stage admits, as the FT did (£), that “ICAP will see revenues slashed by an estimated 15 per cent in 2014 with the new tax, according to an analysis by Barclays published last week.”
Instead, the unintentionally risible disclaimer at the start of ICAP’s contribution says (our emphasis):
“The information contained in this document constitutes opinion only. It … has not been independently verified and consequently no warranty, whether express or implied, is given as to its accuracy. “
It goes on to state that:
“This document has not been prepared in consideration of the investment objectives, financial status, or particular needs of any specific recipient and any recipient should perform such due diligence as it may deem necessary before taking or not taking any action.”
However, as the FT and Barclays have made clear, it has been prepared in the financial interests of ICAP itself. And yet, ICAP’s own financial interests aren’t mentioned at all in their document. Odd, that. Pull the other one!