Scam

The chairman, his bodyguard hamster, and impending Bondmageddon…

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“Have I done something to offend your hamster?” I asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management after dropping by his office to invite him to The Investment Management Heavyweight for a pint or two of Have To Wonder If Hermes’s Incoming Head Of Marketing Got To Write His Own Press Announcement Before Even Starting His New Job.

It seemed a pertinent question since, having first subjected me to a disturbingly thorough frisking, Adair, the chairman’s giant pet hamster and occasional bodyguard, was now perched on the desk between us and baring his teeth at me. As Adair is the size of a small beachball, it was not a reassuring site. Furthermore, he appeared to be foaming at the mouth.

“Are you sure that’s normal?” I asked. “The foam?” said the chairman. “Oh I shouldn’t worry about that – before you arrived he was gnawing on a tube of toothpaste he found in my executive washroom.” “OK,” I nodded. “But still, why is he snarling at me? I’ve known him for longer than the laws of science might allow and he’s never behaved so aggressively – at least not to me.”

“The little chap’s just feeling a mite overprotective towards me,” smiled the chairman. “After what’s been in the news the last few days, he’s trying to work out if you might be an undercover reporter or one of those anti-capitalist protestors.” “I’m not sure which possibility is less likely,” I replied. “But are you both sure you have that much to worry about?”

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men,” pointed out the chairman. “Well, obviously,” I nodded. “But even if we allow a certain lassitude with your definition of ‘righteous’, how much danger are you in when it comes to being infiltrated by undercover journalists?

“I know that kid from The Times did a hell of a job researching his PPI mis-selling story and I suppose that does raise some questions for certain employers when it comes to deciding whether or not to hire that really clued-up kid who seems to have already taken a genuine interest in their dodgy company. Still, I’d have thought Scam was safe enough.”

“Because we’re not a dodgy company?” tried the chairman. “Good one,” I laughed. “No – because you rarely employ anyone and when you do they tend to have four legs, fly or photosynthesise. So unless you’re worried about getting exposed in the National Geographic for running some sort of animal sweatshop, I’d get your hamster to … hey … is he waving a flick-knife at me now?”

“Oh don’t be so melodramatic,” sighed the chairman. “It’s only a letter opener. Anyway you haven’t explained why we shouldn’t worry about the anti-capitalists.” “How about because they’ve probably never heard of Scam?” I suggested. “There are lots of, um, lesser-known investment houses around the City and the West End,” said the chairman. “That didn’t stop the protestors trying to find them.”

“True,” I said. “But surely one of the biggest beefs the protestors have with investment houses is they makes their clients rich – a criticism, if that is the right word, that can hardly be laid at Scam’s door.” “You may have a point,” said the chairman, relaxing a little. “What do you think, Adair?” The hamster, who had been picking his teeth with the letter opener, gestured with it towards the ceiling.

“Ah – good point,” nodded the chairman before turning back to me. “Adair rightly points that there are other dark forces at work – not least the impending Bondmageddon.” “Now there I can offer very little comfort,” I admitted. “Bondmageddon may well be on the cards, but I suspect the time to worry will be when a Google search flags up five million references rather than the 500 I got this morning.

“But is there honestly any point in worrying about it? If the world really is going to end not by fire, flood or famine but by fixed interest then, with the greatest respect to Adair, I don’t think even a giant hamster with a flick-knife will be enough to save you.”