George Monbiot draws a parallel between unscruplulous firms that dump toxic waste on poor countries and banks that offload their toxic debt in a similar way. He refers to Barclays and its recent attempt shunt its CDOs and dodgy mortgage assets to a company in the Cayman Islands. A better example of financial fly-tipping, though, is Merrill Lynch’s attempt to dump rubbish onto the British taxpayer.
Just over a year ago the investment bank booked £16bn of losses, mostly from business in the US, to its UK subsidiary, ensuring that, even if it generates profits at its record 2006 levels, it won’t pay any tax for the next 60 years. At the time the government said that it would look into this work of creative accounting but, soon afterwards, it seemed to go quiet. The government had more important fires to put out.
But now that we are talking about, raising taxes and cutting public spending to reduce our debt, isn’t it time to do what my local council does to fly-tippers? Catch them and make them pay for clearing up the mess they have caused.