FTSE 100
Dow Jones

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Out of their tax-payer funded minds

Brussels has just come up with its proposal for a tax on interbank transactions: 0.1% annual fee on all inter-bank exposures and a 1 bp fee  on all derivative deals.

They must be out of their minds.  Only a few years ago, 10bp was the up front fee for a syndicated interbank financing / guarantee / standby letter of credit, while 1bp was the spread on a simple derivatives deal, and Brussels want to take that as an annual spread for themselves, effectively doubling the cost of doing the sort of plain vanilla business that they ought to be encouraging in order to stimulate the economy.

Let us not forget that the euro zone crisis was not caused by the same sloppy banking as we saw in the UK, US and some of northern Europe.  In the rest of the euro zone it was caused by overspending pork barrel politicians such as Mr Barroso, and their failure to collect taxes.

Moreover, a tax on British state owned banks is nothing more than a cost imposed on the UK tax payer in order to bail out the rest of the EU.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Goldman Sachs rules the world

I am not a trader, and I don't have much time for them.  There again they don't have much time for me.  But I take my hat off to Alessio Rastani, the self-styled City trader who stripped away the jargon and bluster of the financial world and summed up our woes in just three minutes.

"I go to bed every night dreaming of another recession," he explained in a BBC interview. "It's an opportunity." The soundbites won Mr Rastani instant fame.

He became a viral hit and was trending on Twitter. BBC business editor Robert Peston was among his many fans. "A must watch if you want to understand the euro crisis and how markets work," Peston told his army of 82,000 followers on Twitter on Tuesday.

Trouble was, Mr Rastani was nothing of the sort. Mr Rastani works and lives in a £200,000 semi in Bexleyheath, south London as a public speaker. The house belongs to his partner.

Peston and the BBC have now retorted that they have checked him out, but it seems that nobody bothered to check the FSA register.  Strange, you would have thought they would have thought about that one after Michael Brown, the Lib Dem wonder donor.

OK, all you morons out there who have no idea how to check out if someone really works in the City. Drop me an email and I will let you have their bona or non-bona fides in 10 minutes.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Cold Custard Party: yellow and thick

Not a fan of the Lib Dems. Never have been and never will be. Too stupid and it's in their genes.

Last week I was in a discussion with one of the yellow peril about whether the taxes one private transport were more or less than the amount the government spent on roads.

"Ah, but", replied the bearded twit, "the cost to the country of congestion is £30 billion and the cost of road accidents is £20 billion".

 Which kind of misses the point. When we say that the cost of congestion is £30 billion we are not comparing the cost against life without cars, but lagainst life with cars, but without congestion. Most of that £309 billion is the value of the extra outputs we could produce if we weren't stuck in traffic, implying that the fact that we do travel has a far greater financial positive outcome than the opportunity cost created by congestion.

 Similarly, the fact that people die in car crashes with direct and indirect costs (loss of future earnings) which somebody puts at £20 billion overlooks the economic benefit of private motoring, and the fact that in any event the costs of death will arise eventually, so it is not the cost per se that we are interested in but the relative cost compared to the other likely ways of dying and losing future income.

Still as I said, it is in their genes, and as if to make the point at their party conference, the Lib Dems were adamant that they would stand up against Tory tax cuts for the rich and in favour of lifting the low paid out of the tax net altogether.

 Superficially it sounds good, but like much of their global warming theorising, it doesn't stand up to a lot of scrutiny. Raising the personal tax allowances increases everybody's tax allowances and reduces their taxable income, if any, by up to the amount of the increase.

The amount of tax saved depends on their marginal top rate of tax. For somebody well into the 50% tax band the extra cash in hand will be equal to half the amount of the increase in allowances, but for a very low earner paying only a few pounds in tax, the saving will only be those few pounds. Does that sound particularly "fair" or "egalitarian"?

 Nor to me either.

If I were a rich man

Labour are back to their dishonest ways again at conference. Yesterday we heard about their £6,000 tuition cap. Only it turned out this wasn't a policy at all, merely what they would have done if they were in power. Similarly, today the BBC obligingly launched Ed Balls' 5 point plan. Only this wasn't a policy statement either, another statement of what Labour says it would have done if it was in power. Not that we will ever found out the truth, because they are not in power. So they say such things knowing that they will never be held to account. Mere hypothetical musings.

Why Britain should join the Euro

Not my suggestion but that of Richard Layard, Willem Buiter, Christopher Huhne, Will Hutton, Peter Kenen and Adair Turner and published by the Gaddhaffi School of Economics in 2002.

Download it here for a good laugh at the pomposity of the puffed up idiots who lecture us on how we should lead our lives, and note how all the arguments against (One size does not fit all, Europe is a failing economy, Tax harmonisation, Britain’s financial system is different, Europe’s unfunded pension liabilities, The euro will fail) all turned out to be correct.

Also note how the three political types (Huhne, Hutton and Turner) not only offer us the benefit of their wisdom on economics, but also share with us their profound insights on thermodynamics and fluid mechanics to inform our thinking on climate change.

Euro trash

A few months ago European bank regulators, not necessarily the finest specimens of humanity in public service, ran stress tests on all the major banks in the EU and concluded that most of those banks were basically sound and had adequate capital.

This was notwithstanding the fact that many of those banks held substantial amounts of government debt.

Now those same governments have started to firm up on how the euro might be rescued.  This involves the banks taking a 50% haircut on all the Greek debt that they hold.  Now, hang on.  Where was this 50% haircut when the stress tests were run?

Ummm. nowhere.

So do the banks have enough capital?

Well, if they don't, they will have to raise some in the markets.

But what if the markets won't put up more equity because of the way European governments threaten to default unless the banks take a 50% haircut?

Then the banks will have to be supported by their own governments.

How does that work?

The governments buy new equity for cash.

Where do they get that cash?

They borrow it from the banks because it is 0% risk weighted paper and thus does not add to their capital requirements,  even though the banks will have just taken a 50% write-off on government debt.

Hang on.  I think we have a problem of Enron-esque (Enronic, Enronian?) proportions.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps

The IMF seems to think it might have invented the fiscal equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.to tackle the eurozone debt crisis and support the global economy.

In a communique on Saturday, the global lender said it would review the resources it had available to tackle the crisis. The statement added that eurozone nations would do "whatever necessary" to resolve Europe's debt crisis.  However, the communique, issued during a meeting between G20 finance ministers, the IMF and the World Bank, did not give specifics on whether extra funds would be available to the global fund. "Our lending capacity of almost $400 billion looks comfortable today but that pales in comparison with the potential financing needs of vulnerable countries and crisis bystanders," said IMF managing director Christine Lagarde in an action plan presented to the fund's policy steering panel.

Well excuse me, but the problem here is that the whole of the Western world with the notable exception of a few countries such as Norway and err,,.. Norway, have been running their governments at various levels of deficits, which just look worse when the implicit or explicit support for their banking systems are factored into account.  The banks of course are looking shaky because of their exposure to governments.

So what is the IMF's potential solution? To use its financial muscle to stand behind those governments if necessary and help them out if necessary.  And where are the IMF going to get their funding?  By calling on their funders in accordance with their subscription agreements.  And who are those funders?  Why, the whole world, but mostly very same countries that they will be bailing out.

Don't mess with the first or second laws of thermodynamics. It will only end in tears.

UPDATE: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned it may not have enough money to bail out larger eurozone countries if the debt crisis were to spread. IMF chief Christine Lagarde says the global lender can meet its current obligations but this could change if the crisis worsens.

Clearly Mme Lagarde reads THE FINANCIAL CRIMES.

Yeah, that's gonna work, not

Labour plan to cut the maximum university tuition fee from £9,000 to £6,000.  The implication, although they don't say so explicitly, is that the difference will be funded by the government.  In other words, and extra £3,000 funding per university place - mind you, those are my words not theirs.

So how is that going to be paid for?  By charging a higher rate of interest on student loans for those earning over £65,000. As though any young person earning that much (note more than an MP's salary) would actually leave a loan with a high rate of interest outstanding.  The most likely scenario is that by the time any whizz kid had pushed up their £25 k salary on graduation to a figure three times as much, they would have set aside enough cash to pay off the £18k loan balance.

Funding source number 2, and this is another play right out of the new Labour spin book, is to fund the measure by not reducing the rate of corporation tax.  Yes, you read that right.  Raise money by doing nothing. The whole thing brings back horrible memories of a time past when facts and numbers meant nothing and the country was run on myth and spin.

Which is probably why Mr Militwaddle nows says the pledge would apply if he were in office now, but might not appear in his election manifesto. Yeah, and if I was in government today I would guarantee abundant motherhood and apple pie plus unlimited sunshine, but it might not appear in my next manifesto.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

High on a hill stood a lonely goatherd

I am not sure what the opposite of a fan (i.e. fanatic), but I have long been an "un-fan" of UBS.  This, let us remember, was the bank that managed in 2009 to come to a Deferred Prosecution Order with the US Department of Justice and book a $20 billion loss for the year.  To be engaged in criminal activity (tax evasion / money laundering) and still lose a shedload of money takes incompetence of the highest order.

Not that that was too surprising.  UBS has always had lousy head office management.  The original UBS was a combination of Swiss cantonal banks, who purchased Phillips & Drew, the London stockbroker, probably the only bit of quality in the organisation.  The bank was criticised by major Swiss investor Martin Ebner for its underperformance and lack of shareholder and after many years of harranguing by Ebner, UBS merged with with Swiss Banking Corporation, taking the U from UBS and the B and S from SBC to make a new larger bank called UBS.  This brought the additional merchant banking skills of Warburg, who had realised that merchant bankers braces and bullshit could be combined with commercial banks' balance sheets bearing to achieve the all important target: bigger bonuses.

The combined bank grew, acquiring Paine Webber and with it the former Kidder, eabody, and grew hoovering up talent from various second tier US investment banks, so that the US investment banking arm was like the Bolton Wanderes of Wall St., although the profitable part was probably the "Wealth management" (put all your cash in this holdall and we'll take it to Switzerland and hide the interest from Uncle Sam).

But all of these overseas mergers and acquisitions did nothing to improve the quality of the senior management back in Switzerland, who remained very much as though they were from the Aargauische Kreditanstalt or the Bank in Winterthur. While the world's financial press would lap up every word of JPM's Jamie, Goldman "partners" or the co-head of Pan Global Equities and Everything Else at Morgan Stanley, nobody gave a fig for the opinions of the Ulis, Hans-Ruedis and all the other spaetzli munchers, because all they knew about was the tax efficiency of bank secrecy.

Which is why the UBS risk management sytems were so bad in 2008 that the lost a bunch of money and decided to create a position for a "Chief  Risk Officer", which is probably something they should have had years ago.

Not that it did them any good. When the Kweku Adoboli multi-billion loss first surface, UBS Chief Executive said there would be a full investigation but he wouldn't be resigning over the issue commenting that “if someone acts with criminal intent, you can’t do anything.”

He got that wrong too.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The other way to make money in the Emerging Markets

  • Tony Blair has been paid £2 million a year since 2008 by JP Morgan to source business from country leaders and other contacts.  Don't believe the guff about "advice".  The man has such a poor grasp of such terms as truth, honesty and morality that no sensible bank, howver venal would trust Blair's objectivity. 
  • Blair writes letters to set up his marketing trips by sending out letters on notepaper headed "Office of the Quartet Representative", although his business trips had nothing to do with his so called peacekeeping role.
  • Blair made 3 trips to Libya, 2 before the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, and one after.
  • JP Morgan now manage more than $500 million of assets for the Libyan Investment Authority.  This is probably worth at least $10 million a year to JPM in management fees (2% of assets under management). They probably also earn more in upside sharing arrangements.  A typical arrangement is 2% + 20% of upside.
  • You, dear tax payer, get to pick up the cost of security with Blair's police entourage and accommodation at the British embassy for Blair while he is on his business trips.
If the whole exercise were above board (I doubt it), then it ight be excusable if Blair was trying to win business for British companies.  But he isn't.  Rather than applying his British taxpayer funded experience to help British companies, he sells out to the bank that will fill his pockets with the most gold.

No doubt he will claim that his dealings were above board and had nothing to do with the release of Megrahi.  On the other hand the LIA had no particular reason to put any business JPM's way, except that it might influence Blair to press some friends on the matter.  More iportantly, it showed the more money grubbing members of the British government that there was a source of ready cash in Libya in return for favourable deals, which goes a long way to explain how the Megrahi deal might have happened and Mandelson's new £8 million house, not to mention TB's big house in Connaught Square (and the house at the back) and a lot of other property.

In an interview with a Libyan TV station at the time of the Megrahi release, Gaddafi's son Saif Al-Islam claimed that the issue of Megrahi had been raised repeatedly by Blair. He said: "In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi] was always on the negotiating table."

A senior Labour source suggested at the time that while Blair would not have laid down the offer of Megrahi's release formally, he may have given that impression to Gaddafi. The source said: "Gaddafi wouldn't be the first person to have walked away from a meeting with Tony thinking a deal was on. Just ask Gordon Brown."

Blair visited Libya in May 2007 just before his resignation, during which UK energy giant BP signed a £450m exploration deal. He visited Libya on business on behalf of JPM in 2008.  It is likely that Saif Al-Islam's remarks in 2009 referred to the later visits as much as the visit when he was in office.

Mandelslime said in 2009 he had also met Saif twice in the previous 12 months and acknowledged that the imprisonment of Megrahi had been raised.. He added: "As I have already stated, on both occasions Mr Gaddafi raised the issue of the Libyan prisoner in Scotland's release as all representatives of the Libyan government do. They had the same response from me as they would have had from any other member of the government. The issue of the prisoner's release was entirely a matter for the Scottish justice minister. That is how it was left, that is how it was well understood."

Mandelslime also said it was "implausible" to suggest that a UK Labour minister would simply ring up the SNP administration in Edinburgh to urge them one way or the other. Well yes, o greasy one, but we would hardly expect you to be so blunt.  Rather we would expect the Labour administration in London to make a generous pre-election financial offer to the SNP run administration in Scotland so that both parties could boast to the electorate of their generosity, when all the while it was actually coming from tax payers down south.

So next time you hear a politician being retained for their international consulting skills, go figure that it is nothing more than open ing a few doors and probably using their contacts at home rather than abroad to help fix deals. Foreigners rarely do deals out of kindness to our retired politicians.  In all likelihood the ex-politician is really earning big money for the influence they have back at home.

Make money fast #94

You too can become one of the wealthiest people in the country if you follow these simple steps:

  1. Find something you are good at, preferably where there isn't too much competition.
  2. Work hard at it, very hard, for a long time.
  3. Get lucky.
Follow these tips and you may end up like Mark Coombs, who this week paid himself £45 million in dividends from his share of the public listed company, Ashmore.  Mind, you that was only half of his share of the £245 million profits for the year, and peanuts compare to the £1.2 billion market value of the shares that he owns. And all that in little more than a decade. Well not quite, because while Ashmore may have only been around since the late '90s, Coombs has been building up his business model for the last 20 years, and a very simple one it is too.

Coombs is in the Investment Management business, but he is no Warren Buffett.  Buffett and his hordes of analysts scour the developed world looking for mature companies with strong underlying businesses and investing in them to maximise their potential.  Coombs on the other hand is no MBA analytical type.  Nor is he a barrow boy trader, but a Cambridge law graduate who got into banking in the 1980's, a while before the Big Bang and yuppie frenzy.  Nor did he join one of the long disappeared UK-focussed merchant banks of the time nor one of the incoming US investment banks, but Grindlays Bank, a relic of earlier times with a  a vestige of a reputation but not much more in many UK colonial outposts.  Grindlays was owend jointly by Lloyds and Citibank, but operated largely independently of both banks.

Grindlays did have an appetite for foreign country risk unlike many of their larger UK counterparts who if they did any business in exotic climes were more focussed on export finance or banking the cash for foreign subsidiaries of UK multinationals.  After a few years Coombs was given trading limits to buy and trade distressed government debts.  Holding Sudanese government debt at 4% of face value can be smart if you think it is going to jump to 6% next week on some good news, and the interest payments can be even better news if they ever happen. While various groups campaigned for debt amnesties on subSaharan government debt, Coombs and other speculators had already bought those debts at a substantial discount, making the protests largely in effective.

But Coombs didn't just buy into those markets, but also into whatever were were termed the emerging markets of the day, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe, trading paper based on the political events of the day.  By this time, Grindlays had been bought by ANZ, a Melbourne bank, who eventually sold the Grindlays overseas business to Standard Chartered in 1990, but whilst they saw Coombs and his team operating a $200m book in London quite profitably, they were a relatively conservative bank and were reluctant to expand their proprietary trading.  

In 1992, Coombs started EMLIP, the Emerging Markets Liquid Investment Portfolio, an open ended fund which "which targets high total returns through specialist  active value management of a highly diversified portfolio of primarily liquid emerging markets debt" (i.e. trades high yield paper)
http://www.ashmoregroup.com/fileadmin/uploads/ashmore/pdfs/funds/EMLIP/EMLIP_September.pdf.  This allowed his business to expand and eventually outgrow the small and capital base that ANZ could provide. Rather thatn taking the obvious step of taking the operation to a larger financial institution, Coombs preferred a buy-in, which suited both ANZ and the management team, and created Ashmore, with Coombs holding a substantial stake.

And the rest is history; Ashmore's assets under management have grown to $65 billion. How did that happen?  The simple answer is that in the first decade of the new millenium, the relative importance of emerging markets in the world economy has grown enormously, and hence so has the investor appetite for exposure to those markets.  Now any old investment bank could set up its own emerging market fund, and many of them do, but very few of those talking heads have the appetite for research and analysis that is undertaken by Ashmore, and while many of Wall St's finest brains may spend their days trying to shave milliseconds off decision making on exchange based trades or figuring out pricing anomalies in exotic securities using fancy models, Ashmore's decisions are driven largely by an understanding of foreign country politics and economics, knowledge which they employ on behalf of their investors for a management fee.

So there you have it kids.  You too can be a billionaire, just like Mr Coombs.  Did I mention that he works very hard?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Finders Keepers

A piece of space junk, a 20 year old satellite, is due to fall to earth next Saturday. Nobody quite knows where, but it has a higher than normal chance of causing serious damage. However, the US government says "Members of the public are not allowed to keep pieces of the satellite that may fall to Earth, or sell them on eBay, as they remain the property of the US government." Oh yeah? As far as I am concerned the US government threw it away. If it lands in my back garden, I am clamping it. The release fee will be negotiable.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Quite a "quit quilt quick" quip

Will Hutton, a director of the Work Foundation and co-author of their latest report "Making the UK a Global Innovation Hub" , says: "Britain's patchwork of institutions, networks and public agencies is not fit for purpose. The state must take the lead on this because confidence among businesses is so fragile at present. The government has already recognised the importance of this agenda but the time has come to make it happen."

So what is his solution? He said the task was to "create a network of institutions, processes and methodologies that will spur both the magic of innovation and the tough task of its development and commercialisation".

Replacing a patchwork by a network? Yeah, that's gonna work. The real difference is state ownership.And if that ever made an improvement we would have gone down that route long ago.

Confidence amongst business is fragile because of the increased level of state interference since 1997. During that time state spending has risen from £350bn to £700bn, while tax receipts have risen from £350bn to £530bn, give or take a few billion in each case.  The £170bn difference is the reason business confidence is fragile.

Why would a company invest in a country where the state is going to have to raise all taxes by 33% to break even on an annual basis, and that before it starts to repay the money it currently owes?

All we have is nest-stealing cuckoos

The #1 country in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Ranking is Switzerland. Last year it was also Switzerland.

The Swiss have policies of controlled immigration, low taxation and a policy of aligning their currency with the euro to facilitate without actually becoming members of the eurozone, and thus retaining control of their monetary policy.  Sounds eminently sensible.

Also they have lots of clean mountain air and cows with bells, which is nice.

Monday, 5 September 2011

We are the Hollow Men

Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he did not know whether allegations UK security services were involved in the rendition of Libyan terror suspects were "credible".

In other interviews, he claimed that it was not possible for a foreign secretary to know about everything that was done by MI6.

And who would doubt him? But the issue is not whether the allegations were credible, but whether they were true. And the man of straw, having been responsible for giving directions to MI6 should know what they had been told to do, and one presumes, whether his directions had been carried out.

Straw goes on to say "At no stage did I ever authorise or turn a blind eye to unlawful practices by the Secret Intelligence Service in relation to torture, rendition or any other matter. To the very best of my knowledge it did not take place.".  Well it did take place because Abdul Hakim Belhaj was shipped from Hong Kong to Tripoli

And MI6's head of counter-terrorism Sir Mark Allen wrote to Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan foreign intelligence who went on to become Muammar Gaddafi's foreign minister: "This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week."

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

The truth will out

There are two reasons many despots cling to power long after their sell-by date.  The first is that their egos are so inflated that they can't imagine being subservient to their successors.  The second is that once they leave power, the true nature of their behaviour becomes apparent.  Both are also true of "democratic despots".

This weekend we had more revelations about Gordon Brown.  Nothing really new there and what was not known already could have been deduced years ago.  I don't know anybody who psychanalyses tax legfislation, but if they looked at the anti-avoidance provisions from 1997 they would have a field day. Small losses to the exchequer were "fixed" by vast dollops of legislation that usually had far greater impacts than the problems they were supposed to solve - too long to go into details here, but suffice it to say the volume of UK tax legislation doubled under Brown's chancellorship. But that is not the issue of the hour.

First of all we learn why the Labour Party never thought the phone hacking scandal was worthy of a police investigation.  It turns out that Blair pushed Brown and Tom Watson to lay off the Murdochs.  After all Murdoch was the father of his goddaughter, not that he wanted it to be publicly known.  Neither in all likelihood id he want it pblicly known tha Murdoch caught Blair on camera in compromising circumstances with Anji Hunter when Blair, Hunter and the Beast of Bolton visited Murdoch to speak at a News International conference in Australia in 1995. The rest of the Labour front bench knew and were terrified the pictures might surface before the 1997 election.  They didn't, and Blair has been in Murdoch's pocket ever since.

The next revelation comes from our intrepid reporters in downtown Tripoli who tell us that MI6 were involved at the very least in tipping off Gaddhafi about Libyan dissidents and very probably co-operating in rendition of prisoners to Libya between 2002 and 2004.  Downing Street doesn't comment on security matters which is very convenient for all concerned, but since MI6 reports to the PM it is easy to see who authorised that degree of cooperation with the US. Seems like Labour's idea of an ethical foreign policy is to ship dissidents off for torture in return for oil concessions.

The next unanswered question is how Mandelslime has managed in 10 years to accumulate enough capital to buy a house costing more than 50 times his highest after tax income in that period. No doubt we shall find out soon.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Public good, private bad

Says the BBC, or at least that is what you would think listening to their take on the news.

First of all we have the news that the Chief Executive of Southern Cross will be leaving the company and waiving the £450,000 pay off to which he is entitled.  He is constantly harrangued by the interviewer despite saying that 90% of the SC care homes have replacement operators in place.  What about the other 10%?  Well frankly it takes time to negotiate agreements and nobody says that there aren't operators lined up; it justs takes time.  This is not enough to stop the interviewer asking whether the SC business strategy was "reckless" or "immoral".

But then we have the story that 25 staff will be leaving the National Audit Office with a total payoff of £5.2 million or on average £200,000.  One of the government department's soon to be ex-employees will be trousering £750,000, for reasons that are not entirely obvious. Not much of a peep from the BBC; no tracking down any of the 25 staff for aggressive questioning, and yet unlike the private sector Chief Exec, these public sector workers are all taking the money.

Next we hear from Lord Crisp, the NHS chief executive from 2000 to 2006 who says that more hospitals need to close if the NHS is going to cope in the future. Closing hospitals would free up funds for community services to deal with the ageing population. He added that while he was the Chief Executive of the NHS the scale of hospital building projects went too far. More than 100 new hospitals or rebuilds were given the go-ahead.

So did the interviewer ask wwhether his business strategy was "reckless" or "immoral"?  Of course not, and I am sure there fawning creep never thought to question Lord Crisp's entitlement to a full fat NHS pension even though he "retired" from his position at the age of only 54.

The likely BBC explanation would be that the NHS is a national provider of public social and healthcare services, whereas Southern Cross is a national provider of social and nursing services, err, I mean lying thieving private sector scum.