Copyright© Geoff Wolak October, 2009 - Rev 2010
As my wall calendar changed to October 2009, displaying a nice picture of a mountain range, I was quietly concerned; Jimmy had always suggested that 2010 was the first probable year of exposure. Work was progressing well, all African projects growing dramatically, but I had a feeling in my gut that took the edge off, and took the joy out of a lot of what I was doing. And Jimmy, he did not seem to be in the mood for being stealthy anymore.
At a dinner in the city of London, one Friday night, he made several off-the-cuff remarks that he was "shorting" Liebermans, that the banking sector was looking stretched, and that when Liebermans folded it would take a few with it. It was like a slow moving atom bomb going off.
The Financial Times ran the story on the Sunday, but at least used the Queen's English and a few nice words, a flowery account of the comments attributed to Jimmy. The British tabloids were not so concise: banking world coming to an end! The PM was on the phone, disturbing us on Sunday, and these days I appreciated my weekends now that I was a nine-to-five office worker. And a commuter!
On the Monday morning the markets turned red, the banking stocks losing six percent in an instant, Jimmy having bet the downside through Switzerland. He may have been a loudmouth, but he was also a sneaky loudmouth that liked to plan ahead. The FTSE Index dropped, and the DOW opened lower, banking stocks taking a hit, especially Liebermans. They couldn't take legal action against Jimmy because the comments were made at a social function, beer in hand. Besides, he was still legally registered at McKinleys to offer formal advice on the stock markets, tipsy or otherwise.
At noon Jimmy led me to the basement, always a worry, but I found one of the rooms now set-up as video conferencing centre. Jimmy checked himself in a full-length mirror, sat at a desk and hit a few buttons, an earpiece placed in. 'Can you see and hear me?'
'Yes, all good, ' crackled back. 'Two minutes.'
The voice counted down, Jimmy staring at a camera which displayed a small image in a corner of its lens, that of the news studio the other end. I put in a second earpiece and sat.
'Mister Silo, the markets have reacted nervously to your comments regarding Liebermans in America, and the banking sector in general. Do you stand by your comments?'
'Yes, I do. Not least because I received an unsolicited copy of Liebermans trading accounts a while ago. Those accounts confirmed what I already suspected, which is that they're heavily leveraged, and even a small downturn in the property market would hurt them, probably forcing them to file for bankruptcy. I estimate that just a three percent downswing in house prices could force them over the edge, because they're leveraged thirty times their own size.'
'Could you explain that for us.'
'Liebermans, as a business, is worth just about four hundred million dollars. It has borrowed twelve billion dollars, and invested that money in the property market, some of it in highly leveraged positions. They're badly exposed to the property market, as are many of the US banks. In the UK, I'd expect Mortons to get into trouble soon for the same reasons - which are stupidity and greed, nothing more complicated than that. I was also sent the details of large scale accounting fraud by many of the British accountancy firms involved in auditing British and American banks. In particular, a practice whereby debt is swapped ahead of reporting quarters, and swapped back afterwards. A great many American bank directors should be in prison, along with many of the directors of the largest accountancy firms in the city of London.'
And that was that. Balls had been kicked, cages rattled. Still, we made a lot of money off the falling market, being just as dishonest as those that Jimmy had condemned. Later that day, Hardon Chase ordered a review of banking guidelines, but it was too late for Liebermans. For them, the ground was rushing up quickly. In a conversation with Chase, Jimmy suggested that there would be consequences if the New York Fed bailed out Liebermans. He wanted an example made of them, followed by a review.
A document was released to the world's press, anonymously, detailing leverage rates for individual banks, ranked in order of exposure. They ranged from one multiple, which meant that the bank had borrowed what it was worth — something that no sensible business would ever do — to those in the high twenties; it was name and shame time. Mortons, in the UK, showed a leverage of eight, the next highest UK bank leveraged at just four fold.
The run on the banks continued, although some fared better than others and recovered quickly, those with low multiples. And Mac in Mawlini, he scratched his head as eighty-seven million pounds arrived in his account, donated from an S. Mellie Von Flytrap in Switzerland. And all this occurred just a week before the next "M" Group meeting, this one due to be held in Berlin. I had to wonder about the timing.
With the banking sector furore settling, I got back to work. Jimmy had suggested that I nurture those African businesses that were already established, making use of our bank's considerable investment funds. On my desk rested a magazine about African industry, produced to coincide with one of the trade shows at Goma conference centre. The back page held a picture of Mombassa docks, which set me thinking. I researched the company that ran the port, and discovered that they also ran some of the trains we used, plus a fleet of trucks. I called their managing director, a Samuel Obotou.
'Samuel? Paul Holton from England.'
'A great honour, Mister Holton. Indeed, a great honour. How may I be of service?'
'Do you mind if I ask ... do you have finance that you're paying off?'
'All businesses have finance that they are paying off.'
'Do you mind if I ask about the arrangement you have?' I pressed.
'Six million pounds at twelve percent over twenty-one years.'
'Could you do with more finance? I mean - if you had more, could you expand your business and employee more people?
'Certainly. We are struggling because of the finance, not the lack of work, ' Samuel stated.
'Then I'll offer you twelve million at one percent over twenty years.'
'That is most generous. But may I ask ... why?'
'We want to boost jobs in Kenya, nothing more complicated than that.' As I said it, I realised that I was starting to sound like Jimmy.
'Then I will be happy to receive your assistance.'
'I'll arrange it within days. Oh, do you know of any other businesses in your region that could do with some ... you know, finance to grow?'
He gave me a list. All the time and effort I had put into trying to figure that out, and all I had to do was ask. I offered the main trucking company in Mombassa ten million at one percent, the largest rail company six million, and a small Kenyan shipping company three million towards leasing more ships. And for each recipient of my donor cash I asked how many new jobs would be created. My notepad jottings added up to around eight thousand new employees, not a huge number for Africa. I was happy enough with what I was doing, my new approach, but still not a hundred percent.
Next came a train company that worked out of Dar es Salaam. It was state owned, but did its own thing. Kind of. I got through to the main man via an interpreter. They did not have any loans, but it could be argued that they owed the government money. Since the Tanzanian Government owned it, it was all a bit odd.
'How much money would you need to create a thousand new jobs?' I asked.
'Around a million pounds, ' was the answer they finally came back with, based on existing figures. These were better numbers.
'And they would be sustainable, long term jobs?'
'Yes, we have many more orders than capacity.'
'OK, I'll loan you twenty-five million, secured by the Tanzania Government. Will they do that?'
'Yes, sir, they own the business.'
'And how would you spend the money?' I pressed.
'More track, more rolling stock and engines, and cargo yards.'
'Fine, I'll send someone to you. Thank you.'
I went and found Jimmy. 'Tanzanian state railway company: good investment?'
'Sure. Ask them to help with an improved east coast track. From South Africa right up to Mogadishu.'
Dave Gardener stepped into the office, and I was surprised by how ill he looked. 'Got a moment?' he asked.
Jimmy and I led him to the diner. Dave had been injected, but that was almost twenty years ago, and he had been sixty-seven at the time.
'Dave, are you well?' I asked.
'Why not have another injection?' I pressed.
He smiled, shaking his head. 'Wife went last week —'
'Why didn't you tell us?' Jimmy softly enquired, both of us shocked.
'Well, I've done better than I should have, ' Dave reflected. 'Should have left a while back, and I thank you for all you've done.'
'But?' I nudged.
'But I don't want to go on forever. And, from what I understand, even another injection will not make that much of a difference at my age.'
'It'll stretch your life by another ten or twenty years, ' Jimmy softly stated. 'But with some deterioration.'
'So, no, no injection, thanks. And, this is my official goodbye, I'm ... retiring.'
'You're welcome here any time, ' Jimmy told him.
'I know, and I'm glad to have seen what I have, to have witnessed what I have, and worked alongside a time traveller. And ... I hope you fix it all.' He took a moment. 'I'll be leaving tonight, but I wanted to see you one last time; so strong, so young looking, so determined.'
'Leaving tonight?' I queried.
Jimmy said to me, 'We don't enjoy many freedoms in this life, choosing the time and place of your own death is one of them.'
'Christ, ' I let out. 'Would you ... like to see the kids again?'
'I said goodbye to my own yesterday. Coming here was my last bit of business to settle. My replacement will introduce himself soon.'
'He as polite as an Israeli?' I asked, making Dave smile.
'Hopefully, as polite as the British.'
With Dave departed, I took a stroll around the grounds, the relentless march of time catching up with those around me, but not with myself. Down by the river I bumped into Rob and his dogs.
'Out for a walk, boss?'
'Yeah, needed to ... think a bit. How're the dogs?'
'And I'm OK too, ' Rob quipped, making me smile.
'Don't start, I got enough on my plate.'
Rob settled the two dogs. 'Karl used to feed them, and I reckon they know he's gone.'
'That's the problem, isn't it: time moves on, people go.'
'And new ones arrive. Can't dwell on it. I've buried six dogs here. All of the current batch are third generation already.'
'The pups make up for the loss of the old dogs, ' he said as he headed off.
I stared after him, thinking about children. I plodded slowly on, hands in pockets, trees inspected, squirrels glanced at. Back at the main house I jumped into my electric car and returned to my office, finding a few new messages left on my chair.
A week later we flew over to Berlin, accompanying the British PM and his party, and trying not to discuss "M" Group material too much, although some plotting and scheming went on en route. The German security was modest, blacked-out coaches used to transport us to a country hotel just outside the city, a sprinkling of reporters already camped at the gates.
Our rooms were palatial, and there was no need for extra beds for the girls, they had school. After unpacking the basics and hanging up suits, I left Helen to update her laptop and went for a walk through the hotel. Downstairs, I bumped into Ben Ares and his team coming in, shaking his hand.
'You lot comfortable with the venue?' I whispered.
'The hotel, or Berlin?' Ben asked as we walked on together.
'Berlin, ' I whispered.
'Would not have been my first choice.' He gestured towards a man in his late thirties. 'Oh, this is David, your new contact.'
'That'll keep it simple, another David.' I shook his hand. 'Must admit, I miss the old one.'
'As do we all, ' the new David commented.
I left them at reception and walked into the grounds, the rain holding off as President Chase's motorcade wound its way in. His car slowed, and his Treasury Secretary stepped down, the convoy pulling off again. The man strode purposefully towards me.
'Wilkommen in Deutschland, ' I offered.
'Got a minute?'
'Sure.' I gestured him towards a pond, and we strolled slowly on.
'We're thinking of bailing out Liebermans.'
'That would put you on a collision course with Jimmy.'
'It'll be bad for the US banking sector if they fold, ' the man pointed out.
'And, it'll be worse if the warning is not heeded, and many large banks fold in a few years time. You can deal with the one now - and no market crash - or many later with a recession. Take your pick.'
'And if we do bail them out?' he pressed.
'I guess we'd keep the spotlight on your banking sector, then ask the Chinese to make your eyes water.'
'We don't need to borrow so much from them, the economy is buoyant.'
'Suggesting that you want a fight, ' I noted.
'Not in an ideal world.'
I stopped. 'You'll save the hand and lose the arm later, because your banks won't give up the leverage.'
'Is there a half-way measure?' he asked.
'That would probably involve capped multiples, ' I suggested. 'Always assuming that you get accurate and truthful figures from your banks, a novel approach for them.'
'We could cap them at twenty, ' he tentatively suggested.
'I think we'll publish all multiples anyway in the years ahead, so the investors can make up their own minds, whether you're comfortable with twenty or not. And even if we don't, people will look for them.'
'The markets will adjust, ' he suggested. To what, was not clear.
'Look, you were supposed to crash last year, but you didn't. Now, every year that rolls by sees even more money leveraged. So if you crash this year, it'll be worse than last year could have been, and next year worse again. If you crash in ten years time it'll be a hundred times worse. The whole point of Liebermans is a boil- lancing exercise; a warning to others. And don't insult my intelligence by telling me you can reign in the banks worst excesses - you can't! If you crash now you could survive it, but do it from 2015 to 2017 and you'll lose America ... and we lose the planet, so you go figure that out with your slide rule.'
At the first meeting, held around a large rectangular table, I noticed that the leaders were all the same old faces. We had not changed a leader for a while.
Jimmy began with, 'Welcome to Berlin, a peaceful, prosperous and vibrant city that was once the centre of a great conflict. And that's the thing about wars ... and the advance of time; wounds heal, albeit slowly in some areas. Those that were fighting on opposing sides can come together, and the next generation does not hold the same grudges. So, welcome world leaders, hard working aides and former enemies.
'First order of business.' Jimmy nodded toward an American security official. The man stepped up to an Indian aide and lifted a scanner for a few seconds, nodding towards Jimmy when finished. To the Indian aide, Jimmy said, 'Your mobile phone seems to be on continuous transmit.'
The man apologised and switched it off. 'I must have nudged it accidentally.'
'And yet ... the journalist at the other end was not nudged.'
Everyone focused on the man, especially the Indian leader. Words were exchanged.
Jimmy said, 'You can leave now, through the door, or through the window.' The man was escorted out as further devices were waved around the room.
'I would like to apologise to the group, ' the Indian Prime Minister offered.
'I accept your apology, ' Jimmy said. 'And I'm sure that rest do as well, and do not hold you responsible for this man. OK, moving on, the first order of business is ... oil. As you will have seen, oil over- production has lowered prices, making me popular in Saudi Arabia.' People smiled. 'That boosts the western economies, but also makes countries like Russia suffer a little, since they benefit from higher oil prices. It is not my intention to force prices lower, but to stop them rocketing higher. Crude is currently $55 a barrel, with a good supply. By this time it should be $70 plus, spiking above $120 — which would hurt many oil-dependent nations. I would like to point out to the Russians that European oil and gas demand will only ever increase.
'Now, the electric car technology has been released well ahead of the planned date, and many of you should reap the benefit of it's cost savings - except our Russian friends — who may desire a higher oil price. What our Russian friends should also consider is that Russia will benefit from selling its oil, not using it on its own consumers. The less its own citizens buy, the more foreign currency is generated.'
Jimmy took a breath. 'It may be hard to picture the turbulent future at this peaceful juncture, but without the steps that I've taken in recent years, then the key year of 2015 — and subsequent years — would have been flavoured by severe economic problems in the west, leading to political unrest. I hope we can all be grateful that we have the chance of reaching that point in the future ... without either problem.
'President Chase. Your oil industry has already attempted to derail the electric cars. Fine, their implementation is your choice. You may, if you wish, continue to gas-guzzle whilst the rest of the world reaps the cost benefit.'
'We aim to go all electric vehicle in seven years, ' the Germans put in, albeit heavily accented.
'We have similar plans, ' the French added with a softer accent.
'As do we, ' India stated. 'As you know, we have bought the technology off the Chinese.'
'China aims to make good use of the technology, ' Han announced.
'Unfortunately, ' Jimmy began, 'we have a problem. Many countries retain large numbers of dollars to buy oil, and if they end up buying less oil then their fondness for hanging onto dollars may wane, something that America should plan for.'
'How ... exactly, ' Chase firmly nudged.
Jimmy explained, 'As a natural consequence of the electric car technology, OPEC will focus on the developing countries in the years ahead. But, the developed countries will still need oil for lorries, for industry, and the change over to electric cars will never be total; the developed countries will reduce their oil consumption by little more than thirty percent over the next ten years. There will be more dollars on the market, but it won't be a dramatic change. Besides, Africa and the other developing nations will ... develop.'
'And the impact of all of this?' Chase nudged.
'I've affected oil production, the western housing bubble, and released electric car technology, to avoid a serious economic crisis, ' Jimmy informed him. 'My strategy moves us away from that danger, but presents other potential problems that need to be planned for. You all need to consider the impact of a lower volume of oil purchases, and the effect on the petrol-dollar. You also have the super-drug health dividend, and a more stable availability of oil. If not managed, those factors could lower the value of the dollar. But, as the US economy benefits from cheaper oil and consumer tax breaks, a counter-balance could be created. And that's why we have such a capable person in the White House.' Chase cocked an eyebrow. 'I'm confident that he can sort it all out, so that one area counterbalances another.'
'Will America adopt the electric cars?' the Chinese asked.
'Yes, but in small quantities to start with. Oil is now stable, so why should its gas-guzzling citizens worry? What the nice man in the White House should consider ... is the extra growth seen in European and developing economies from the costs savings. He needs to remain competitive. Which brings us nicely around to those fine gentlemen who run the major US banks. As most of you will already know, I expressed my feelings about banks such as Liebermans recently, and the nice man in the White House is considering bailing them out.'
Jimmy opened a folder and handed out a list of US banks. 'This is a list of US banks, ranked in order of risk. Those at the top have a multiple of more than thirty. That means that they have borrowed, for themselves, more than thirty times their net worth, and invested it into the housing markets. So long as the US housing market remains strong there's no danger. But, as soon as the music stops, it's a case of musical chairs, with just six chairs for twelve banks. I strongly recommend to all nations, except America of course, that no fresh investments be made in the top US banks, those with multiples over ten.'
'That's most of our banks!' Chase complained.
Jimmy held his hands wide. 'I informed you many years ago what would happen, and now they're over-stretched. If - and it's a big if - house prices dropped five percent, you'd have to bail them out to the tune of half a trillion dollars. If you wait three years, and property prices drop five percent, you'll bail them out one point three trillion. After five years, that becomes three point five trillion. You with me so far, Mister President?'
'Is there a middle road?' Chase unhappily asked.
'Find some honest bank directors?' I toyed.
Jimmy smiled. 'That would be one solution, albeit a bit ... improbable.'
'And if we capped multiples?' Chase asked.
'They'd lie to you, and hide the truth, as they're already doing with debt swaps.'
Han said, 'The Chinese Government is most concerned about this matter, and will be reviewing its investment policy. We will impose a multiple of twenty to start with, lowering that in subsequent years.'
'Have you met with the banks?' I asked Chase.
'The Treasury Secretary met with them recently, ' Chase replied, sounding unhappy to be discussing the topic openly.
'And they reminded you of the money they make for the US, and of the liquidity benefits that they bring, ' Jimmy posed.
'Something like that, ' Chase reluctantly admitted.
'My preferred course of action would be for Liebermans to hit the wall, followed by a statement from you that no one will get a bailout. Followed by a tough investigation into accounting standards.'
'Again, is there a middle road?' Chase pushed.
Jimmy took a breath. 'Have you ever wondered why I developed the drug in secret, along with the electric car technology? I've done many things by myself, because I don't have an electorate to worry about, nor can I be compromised, bribed or bullied. I do these things for the good of the planet, and I make the choices, knowing that it would be very hard to get a consensus in a group like this, where each of the leaders present has a vested interest. And my relationship with Russia, China and Europe is as much about counter-balancing the worst excesses of US policy as anything else. You can follow my guidance, and the consensus here, or you can do your own thing, Mister Chase. If, next year, your banks need bailing out, you'll leave office as the man who caused a severe economic crash, and not as the great leader we all hoped you'd turn out to be. You need to look forwards ten years, then look back and ask ... how did I handle that financial crisis? They warned me ... but it still happened, and I left office with a very low approval rating.'
The room fell silent, everyone focused on Chase as he unhappily stared back at Jimmy. We waited.
Chase lowered his head and heaved a breath. 'We'll tighten up the worst excesses of the bank, and give Liebermans notice to reduce its multiple to twenty — with a warning that they'll get no bailout.'
His Treasury Secretary shot a dirty look at the back of Chase's head.
'We'll take a one hour break, ' Jimmy ordered. 'During which time the Chinese and Americans can discuss ... future bond purchases.'
I led Helen back to our room and ordered food.
'That going to be a big fight?' Helen asked.
I shrugged. 'Jimmy won't back down, so Chase can co-operate or lose Jimmy's help. The patient ... doesn't like the taste of the medicine.'
At the next session, the mood was a little off, few smiles evident. I should have brought Shelly.
Jimmy began, 'The Chinese and the Americans have made some minor agreements, but not completely to the taste of the nice man in the White House. Moving on, whilst still on the same basic subject, the French and Germans should be aware that when Greece applied to join the Euro, the figures it presented — prepared with the assistance of certain American banks — were completely fraudulent.'
The French and Germans sat upright.
Jimmy continued, 'Their debt is three times higher than that declared, and some members of the American team here knew that fact all along.'
Looks were exchanged.
Jimmy added, 'Greece will get into trouble in the years ahead, speculated upon by those very same American banks that assisted the fraud. Whilst on the subject, Portugal and Spain — which will become known as the Club Med countries — will also face great difficulties. If, and when, the US banking sector falters, Spain will plunge into a recession that will lead it out of the Euro, a similar fate for Portugal and Greece. If the banking sector does not falter, the Club Med countries will falter at a slower rate, but they will still falter.'
'They leave the Euro?' the Germans questioned, aghast at that suggestion.
'Their people will see things as having been better before the advent of the Euro, with a strong desire to fix their tourist trade through a lower currency. Spain will suffer twenty-five percent unemployment for years, forty percent amongst its young people. The voting public will only tolerate that for so long. So you can see why I wish to avoid an economic crash.' He faced the Russians. 'When that crash comes it will take eighty percent off your stock markets.'
He took a moment. 'I had always assumed that, at this date, we'd be in a war of words with America, and by "we" I mean everyone apart the Americans.' Chase straightened. 'So everyone ... listen carefully. Between now and 2015 there will be pressure on the dollar, downward pressure, and that pressure will be resisted by the nice man in the White House at almost any cost. During that economic conflict, America will make use of its banks to its own benefit. All other nations must be careful in the use of large American banks, because they have a vested interest in propping up the dollar, knocking the Euro - and any other currencies in Eurasia.
'The decline of the dollar is inevitable; it's overvalued by a long way, and pegged to the price of oil. So long as there was a shortage of oil and a steady rise in oil prices the petrol-dollar remained strong, falsely strong. That cannot go on forever. It will, eventually, fall back toward its proper value, a painful adjustment for not just America, but the whole world. What happens in the next five or ten years is not a question of ... can it be fixed, but how can the pain be eased. That process can either be a negotiated process, through this group, or it can be a fight — every country for itself. The first step in that fight, and the start point, is how President Chase deals with his banks. If he deals with them as I expect, then the war will start soon, and America will not be invited to further "M" Group meetings.'
'Not invited?' Chase challenged.
'If we begin a conflict, you'll be on your own, ' Jimmy coldly stated. 'You won't be getting any guidance from me, but those you're in conflict with will receive help - because they're not the problem.' He held his gaze on Chase.
'I said we'd tackle the banks, ' Chase curtly pointed out.
'Mister Chase, I can already see the knives in your back.'
Chase took a moment. 'There'll be resistance?'
'That's something of an understatement. The people around this table are not your immediate concern, your own countrymen are. Even some of your own cabinet will be an issue, and they'll leak details of these meetings to undermine you.'
The British Prime Minister put in, 'You once said, in one of these meetings, that we should always keep talking — even if we don't like each other.'
Jimmy faced him. 'And you could sit with an American President when US banks and hedge funds are creating a run on the pound to benefit the dollar? These meetings are only useful if the participants don't lie to each other, about things such as Greek debt.'
'Why did you not mention that before?' the Germans asked.
'Ammunition is not much good unless kept dry ... and ready for use at the right time, ' Jimmy responded. 'There are many things that I know, that you don't.'
'I'd like a recess ... and a private chat, ' Chase curtly demanded.
'By all means, ' Jimmy said with a false smile. 'Thirty minute break, please.'
Jimmy led Chase and myself to a side room and arranged chairs.
'Just where the hell did all this come from?' Chase demanded.
'We warned you many years ago about your banks, ' Jimmy calmly stated. 'Now we're reaching the tipping point, a point where'll I'll have no choice but to expose your banks.'
'You knew the multiples, ' I put in.
'There must be a solution, ' Chase insisted.
'Even if you wanted to control your own banks, your own people would trip you up, ' Jimmy suggested. 'And your Treasury Secretary is more loyal to them than to you. He has an eye on his next job.'
'And if I was amenable to a solution... ?' Chase nudged.
'Then I'd say ... do what you can, but gently, and I'll play hardball. That way, there'll be fewer knives in your back.'
'So instead of them coming for me they go for you, ' Chase questioned. 'And they may try and expose you!'
'If they expose me, they'll strengthen my arm, ' Jimmy pointed out. 'No, more likely they'll try and discredit me, or shoot me.'
I didn't like the sound of that. At all.
'Can we keep channels open?' Chase asked.
'I would hope so, but I know what will happen with the banks, and they'll all need a punch on the nose, ' Jimmy replied. 'There's not much of an alternative. It'll become a dirty fight and, at the end of the day, you're paid to fight their corner, not mine.'
Chase stood and glanced out of the window. 'One of the first things you said to me ... was to think about the end of my life: how I'd view myself looking back.' He turned. 'I don't want to be at the helm during a crash, nor do I want to be undermined by my own people and discredited. I know what they can do.'
'If you leave it to me ... it'll hurt, ' Jimmy informed him. 'But, you'll have less of a problem with your own people.'
'And if they undermine you we lose the planet, ' Chase pointed out.
'There is that, ' I lightly stated.
Chase returned and sat. 'So we do a little a both. I'll push as much as I can, you ... kick some balls, and I'll try and deal with the fallout.'
'It'll be messy, ' Jimmy warned.
Back in the meeting, we discussed the electric technology, the wonder drug, African development and oil quotas before breaking for the day. Now the serious work would begin, not least the French and German governments discussing what to do about Greece. Jimmy met with them and offered to assist the Club Med countries in the next few years. Following that, he made a call with ramifications; the CEO of Liebermans would now be under the spotlight. A copy of their dodgy debt-swaps, ahead of shareholder meetings, had been handed in to the SEC, the New York Post, the Washington Times and CNN.
At the group meal that evening, Chase was called out to take a call. Returning, he unhappily informed us that Liebermans was under investigation. The first blow had been struck, but one that Chase could not be blamed for. He issued a short statement to the waiting press after the meal, condemning any sharp practices in the banking sector and siding with the poor old investor; Joe Public. And I had a chore. I went and found Chase's Treasury Secretary.
'Got a minute?' I asked, leading him away. 'Just wanted to point out that Jimmy handed a file to Chase, the contents of which would put you in prison for a long time.' The man socked upright. 'Some of the detail is real, some has been very cleverly manufactured over the past twenty years.' I tapped him on the shoulder. 'Enjoy the rest of your evening.'
The second blow had been delivered. I went and found Ben Ares. 'Got a minute?'
He gestured me to a seat. 'Problem?'
'Of a sort.' I took a breath. 'Jimmy knows that various Jewish investment managers will perpetrate some major frauds in the years ahead, which will harm the reputation of Jewish investment managers. He's going to deal with them as he has done with Liebermans — very public, and very loud. Of course, if they were dealt with quietly first... ' I held my hands wide and gave a big Dave Gardener shrug, and left it at that.
In London, the Serious Fraud Office took receipt of a bundle of documents regarding a British accountancy firm. In the morning, the British PM was not a happy bunny, voices raised in a private meeting with Jimmy. The PM had been warned years earlier, so I had no sympathy for him. I sighed, another frosty "M" Group meeting on the cards.
Jimmy began the next session with, 'OK, as some of you are aware, there have been a few developments overnight. Documents outlining illegal practices at Liebermans have been handed to the SEC in New York, and the Fraud Office in London have taken receipt of documents relating to an accountancy firm. There will be fallout. All you need keep in mind is that the people elected you, and that you work for those people.' He focused on the American team. 'It may have been wise for you to consider that I've had moles inside your banks for some twenty years.'
'I'm going to get tough with them, where I can, ' Chase reluctantly offered, a statement meant for the other nations assembled about the tables.
Russia stated, 'We will be ... cautious about investing in certain American banks.'
China and India echoed those words, France and Germany stating that there would be a far reaching review. I guessed that they meant Greece, as much as their own countrymen investing in the nominated US banks.
'Israel will also be conducting a review, ' Ben Ares stated, causing Chase to focus on him.
'Moving on, ' Jimmy called. 'And to recap. The next ten years will be dominated by the slide in the dollar, and the steps taken to prevent that slide. There is no easy way of dealing with it. In a worst-case scenario, a future US president will go to war to prop-up the dollar. At best, there will be economic war of some degree. The path will not be smooth, and there's very little that I can do to assist; there is no magic formula to apply.
'Our American friends at this table are aware of the problem, and everyone else is aware of both the consequences, and the possible actions that may be taken. For each American action, they have a reaction planned — I've made sure of that. My role, in the years ahead, will be to try and lessen the damage to both sides. One solution, a definitive solution, would be for the US to lower its currency whilst reducing health costs and implementing new technologies to remove the dependence on oil. That ... is unlikely to happen till its absolutely necessary, a little late in the day.
'What Mister Chase needs to be aware of is that the health and energy savings available to America's competitors are huge. Their economies will benefit, as yours could. It's up to you.
'Now, if OPEC dropped the dollar around 2017, the effect would be a lowering of the value of the dollar, causing America's imports to double overnight. If the health and energy benefits are in place, then the pain of those rises would be greatly lessened. US citizens need not worry about the rise in oil prices ... when they drive electric cars. And the rise in food imports can be offset by tax breaks, caused by the health budget savings.'
He faced Chase. 'You may have assumed that was my reasoning all along, to help deal with your two largest cost centres; oil and healthcare. You can wait till 2017, or you can take small steps towards that date, using the savings to adjust the dollar's position in the world. This is the best opportunity you'll ever get — but I'd bet my life you don't take it.'
Jimmy pointed at the Treasury Secretary. 'I'd like you to arrange a meeting of the top banks for next week. I'll see if I can't make them see sense. OK, moving on to the next generation of nuclear power stations. They will cost less to build, less to run, and will produce a greater output. And as for their waste products, our friends in Somali are happy to accept as much waste as you have. I'm preparing a facility there, and the fees will be low.
'OK, the Swine Flu pandemic will run its course — no pun intended, but will not be as severe as various pharmaceutical companies would like it to be. Those people injected with the super-drug will be ninety-percent resistant, but all countries here should divert a large portion of their medical research toward flu variants. In the future, they will kill a great many people, even some of those with the super drug.'
We got into small detail, and the mood lifted a little, sensible questions asked and answers given. We even managed to finish with a few jokes. Landing back at Cardiff airport, we found the girls in the coach, full of news of hamsters and mice and rabbits. After my heart had started again, they explained that the animals were in a large shed near the rose garden, and not running around our house. Helen and I sighed with relief.
Back in my office, I accepted a mug of tea and listened to updates for an hour before Jimmy stepped in. He waved people down when they attempted to stand, and eased down onto a sofa.
'So, this where all the proper work happens, eh?' he said with a smile.
'Deep thinking and doughnuts, ' I said.
'I figured we'd finally float Pineapple, sell some stock to make a few quid.'
I pointed at the Pineapple liaison. 'That doesn't mean that you're fired. Don't worry.'
'Quite correct, ' Jimmy confirmed. 'Good people are hard to find. But your work may alter a bit.' He faced me. 'I fancied more shares in the media group, Blake Carrington's.'
'Blake Carrington?' they queried.