Writing on the Wall

Submitted by Janine on 5 September, 2004 - 9:08

Robbing the rich? No way!

Conrad Black’s behaviour towards the shareholders of Hollinger International has outraged his capitalist peers.
The man who investigated Black’s looting of the Telegraph owners — to the tune of $400 million — is the former head of the New York Securities and Exchange Commission, Richard Breedon. For Breedon, turning a profit at the expense of the workers was fair enough. But robbing your shareholders to the extent that Black did was mind-boggling and a moral outrage.
Hence Breedon’s report is laden with invective against Black and his wife Barbara Amiel’s ability to spend so much money on expensive food and drink items, handbags, shoes, perfumes, “jogging attire”, private jets, chauffeurs, and furnishings for their four homes, not to mention the maintenance on the St Peter’s stylie dome at the Blacks’ Toronto mansion.
We should be morally outraged by this of course, not least because Black’s spending and income contrasts so spectacularly with that of the most workers at Hollinger: secretaries, journalists, librarians, cleaners, door staff, chauffeurs…
But why did Black get away with it for so long? Because Black did exactly what the major shareholders at his company wanted. He enriched the company. And he did that by increasing the exploitation of the workers. Black got where he was by sacking as many workers as he could. He may have lived fat but at work he was all “slim down, shape up or ship out”.
In Canada, where Hollinger owns vast numbers of local newspapers he slashed jobs; at the Telegraph he chucked out people left, right and centre.
Robbing workers of a livelihood is legal. And tolerable. Just as allowing the likes of Black and Murdoch to dictate and shape political opinion is tolerated, even venerated, by bourgeois politicians.
But robbing shareholders? That will never do.

Lawyers… a vanishing breed?

Such insights into how the really really rich live make you almost feel warm towards people who are only just a little bit rich. Like lawyers perhaps….
No, no, no!
A report by Legal Business magazine shows that top-earning solicitors can take home as much as £1.2 million a year. The leading 100 firms share revenues of £9.11bn and profits of £2.7bn.
Six UK law firms — widely known as the “Magic Circle” — dominate the UK legal market. They account for 40 per cent of all legal spending within the Legal Business 100.
Apparently these solicitors are not overcharging… it is just that going to the law costs money.
Of course if you are on a low income you can get Legal Aid. Or at least you used to be able to.
Now there is an acute shortage of legal aid solicitors.
Fewer law students are happy to do legal aid work. They cite the pressure of student debt as one reason why they won’t. The starting salary for a legal aid solicitor is £25,000, but for others it is £45,000. Hm, poor things.
The government has helped the pressure somewhat by slashing the amount of legal aid available for asylum seekers. But that can’t deal with the entire problem.
A survey by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau found that some people facing crisis — domestic violence or imminent homelessness — were having to travel 50 miles to find a legal aid solicitor.

A friend of (some) Presidents

This week’s other sorry tale of a multi-million capitalist dynasty gone wrong involved the arrest of Mark Thatcher’s for allegedly helping a planned coup in Equatorial Guinea. Thatcher (rich, arrogant, dim and a mummy’s boy) was arrested just as he was about to escape to America.
Where was he going to in the Land of the Free? Why Dallas, of course. A great place for rich people.
A great place, as Thatcher found, to meet a rich wife (Thatcher married the daughter of a millionaire Texas car dealer while working there in the 80s).
And a great place to make friends with rich politicians. Apparently Thatcher was great mates with George W Bush Jr in the 90s when he was running for state governorship.

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