There has been a lot in the press recently about an announcement on 3 November 2014 of what the FT has called a “poacher-turned-gamekeeper” agreement that will see staff from the bank RBS training officers from the City of London Police in detection and handling of financial crime. In their own press release, the COLP prefer to see it as a “landmark agreement”, under which “RBS staff will assist the force’s Economic Crime Directorate on a voluntary basis, supporting training events and research and development projects”, advising officers on such specialist topics as equities and markets, financial instruments, international jurisdictions and cyber technology.
There are of course those who have said that RBS – with its “outstanding litigation issues” (according to the FT) – is in no position to preach. But as every parent knows, it’s always been do as I say, not as I do. And from Matthew the Apostle onwards, we’ve known that it’s much easier to spot the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye than the plank in your own. So if RBS staff can, from rueful experience, talk feelingly of the techniques of money launderers and other criminals, then all power to them. Perhaps it could be viewed as a rehabilitative element of any eventual sentence passed on the bank, much as blue collar criminals are given community service to make reparations to the public. And those who complain – often with much justification – that regulators and law enforcement do not understand the financial sector or the commercial pressures placed on it, will doubtless welcome this evidence of a willingness to learn. As I have said countless times in the past, criminals are successful in no small part because they are happy to co-operate with each other and play to their respective strengths. We on the side of the angels would be mad not to emulate them in this.