And you thought bankers had an image problem in the US! Things have seemingly gone so wrong for bankers in the UK that they have taken to speaking to churches about how they are not, in fact, evil. Yes, really.
Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer John Varley stood at the wooden lectern in St. Martin-in-the- Fields on London’s Trafalgar Square last night and told the packed pews of the church that “profit is not satanic.”
Can you just imagine that happening here? Bandit standing in the pulpit of a Salem church, pleading with the enraged crowd that he doesn’t practice witchcraft even as they burn masks in effigy? No, of course not, he would be struck by lightning as soon as he mounted the first step. But still!
Varley was there to explain how rewarding bankers with exorbitantly high bonuses was perfectly in line with Christianity, and then he shoved a camel through the eye of a needle just to prove his point. Not only are pay packages on the Big Guy’s good list, they’re necessary, see. And then he trots out the old line that without a lot money, employees will go somewhere else, and anyway, it is not satanic even though if you read Barclays’ latest earnings report backwards you do get some curious messages.
This, on the heels of Goldman sending advisers to London churches to defend its good name. Goldman didn’t say anything about not being satanic, and we suggest you read as much into that as possible. What they did say was that they kind of missed Jesus’ point:
“The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest,” Goldman’s Griffiths said Oct. 20, his voice echoing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s financial district. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”
Which is weird, because I always thought that particular injunction was an endorsement of treating everyone with equality. Shows what I know. But thank you, Bloomberg, for going into detail about the opulence of the venue in which a message championing wealth for some is being delivered. Your irony-meter is strong.