In Depth

James Crosby: lynch mob victim or banker making amends?

Ex-HBOS boss lauded for giving up his knighthood, but was report into bank 'sloppy'?

james-crosby.jpg

SIR JAMES CROSBY, the disgraced ex-HBOS chief executive who yesterday surrendered his knighthood and a third of his £580,000-per-year pension, has been praised as a banker "with a sense of shame". However, a more sceptical view is that he was simply trying to deflect the baying of the lynch mob.

Crosby, who ran HBOS between 2001-2006, asked Whitehall authorities to remove his knighthood in the wake of Friday's damning report into the bank's catastrophic collapse from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

The 57-year-old was described as the "architect" of HBOS's downfall. The report claimed the bank, which was Britain's fifth-biggest lender in 2008 before it merged with Lloyds, needed a £20.5 billion bailout because staff had ignored repeated warnings from regulators. Following the commission's findings Business Secretary Vince Cable had said he was investigating whether Crosby could be banned from serving as a company director.

But the Daily Telegraph argues in an editorial that the "sloppy" report only served to "sate popular demand for a flogging". A friend of Crosby's tells the paper the banker did not think it was "tenable" to fight the public outcry: "He did not want to end up like Fred Goodwin, hounded for the rest of his life".

The Telegraph warns: "A society that gleefully sets the dogs on businessmen deemed to have failed is not one where wealth creation will ever flourish. Perhaps someone should tell the Business Secretary."

However Treasury Select Committee member John Mann welcomed the decision. The Labour MP said Crosby, who also quit his job at private equity firm Bridgepoint and has stepped down as a director of catering company Compass, sets the benchmark for others. "At last we have a banker who is prepared to say he got it wrong and wishes to make amends," he said.

The Independent's James Moore believes we shouldn't cry "too hard" for Crosby: "He'll no doubt muddle through comfortably enough on a six-figure sum each year. And, unlike Mr Goodwin, he sold off most of his shares before they became worthless," he writes.

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