Orwellian integrity

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I am proud to work with Global Financial Integrity, based in Washington DC. They are committed to exactly what their title suggests: global financial integrity.

I was therefore astonished to note a press release saying:

The Luxembourg Institute for Global Financial Integrity announced its constitution yesterday.

Founded by private citizens from Europe and the United States, under the auspices of Jacques Santer, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and President of the European Commission, the institute is a nonprofit organization, that addresses the integrity of the global financial sector and the social responsibility practiced by all of its stakeholders.

According to Mr. Santer, “We recognized that the global financial sector is in need of stronger ethical practices and standards based on the principles of integrity: transparency, fairness, responsibility and accountability”.

So far it sounds so good. But this body is based in Luxembourg. It’s first conference is to be

The institute will initiate its first open dialogue within the global financial sector and with public and private institutions by organizing a Conference on “Ethics, bank secrecy and fiscal paradise” in Luxembourg on the 10th and 11th of December, 2009.

Of course, that could be something I’d organise. But this is organised by two leading politicians from  Luxembourg who are committed to bank secrecy and fiscal paradise. Let’s put it another way, and as genteelly as I can: they are committed to deception and misinformation, for this is what bank secrecy and fiscal paradise are about. They will argue they do so legally: who cares? Deception and misinformation can be legal and still utterly unethical. After all, apartheid was legal. It never made it ethical.

There is something extraordinarily Orwellian about the abuse of language in this process. Here we have an institute promoting what it calls global financial integrity based lead by leading politicians from a state that bases its whole financial services industry on secrecy, the denial of access to information and the consequent risk of abuse.

And funnily enough I note I’ve not had my invitation to join yet, although they claim:

The Luxembourg Institute for Global Financial Integrity, is now enrolling members who will be active in all aspects of the institute. Banks, institutions and service providers in the global financial markets are being invited to join the institute. Research Fellows and Visiting Research Fellows are being sought out and brought on board. Collaboration is being established with universities, think-tanks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in social responsibility and transparency within the global financial sector.

What’s the betting the fees will be very, very high?