Monday, 14 January 2008

Bits and pieces

A couple of snippets from today's papers that are worth highlighting. First up in the FT's interview with Simon Walker, head of the BVCA (the private equity trade body) it's interesting to note that he again raises the issue of unions investing in the asset class -

He will point out to unions that many of their members' pension funds are investing in the same private equity firms they criticise so loudly.

This is a strange thing to 'point out' for a number of reasons. First I'm not aware of any unions arguing that non-one should invest in private equity. Second I know that unions are well aware that they are exposed to the asset class both directly in some cases and that they have trustees on fund that invest in PE.

Thirdly, and most importantly, so what? Why should the fact that you invest in an asset class preclude you from criticising the behaviour of a business associated with it? It's a bit like saying that because unions invest in equities therefore they are hypocrites if they criticise public companies. Or if you think PE funds are more akin to fund managers, then presumably unions would be hypocrites if they criticise, for example, the poor level of voting disclosure by equity managers. Surely it's better to have some bolshy customers involved in PE than every investor to just talk breathlessly about the great returns they get without looking at how they are generated.

The second interesting bit is buried right in the bottom of this article about the Tories' donation headaches. David Cameron is apparently gfoing to call for the MPs pension scheme to be closed.

He also called for the closing of MPs' final salary pension scheme, which is regarded by experts as more generous than available to most workers.

Interesting move. Just a thought but it would, of course, make it much easier politically for him as PM to shut public sector workers' schemes if his MPs didn't benefit from a far more generous scheme themselves.

Finally, it turns out T Blair is actually going to be paid about £2.5m a year by JP Morgan, not the £500k it had been suggested. However I try and stack this one up it just seems wrong to me that an ex-Labour leader is taking millions a year from an investment bank.

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