Saturday, July 19, 2008

Xers with nothing left to lose

When the Heinrich Kieber story – of the employee of LGT Bank in Liechtenstein who copied (/“stole”) documents on accounts held by foreigners in the tax haven, and later sold these to the German government – first broke in February, my first thought was: “This guy’s got to be an Xer”. Sure enough, he’s 43.

Personally, I would have happily given the documents away, rather than sold them. But other than that, I see where he’s coming from. The social contract that, more so than confidentiality contracts and laws, binds the bankers and their underlings of the ultra-rich to paramount discretion just doesn’t cut it with Xers. We may be paid (well) for our silence, although I suspect Kieber wasn’t while he worked for LGT, which may be a large reason for his later mercenary attitude. Even if we are well-paid, however, Xers are otherwise ill-suited to the cold-blooded life of a tax-haven private banker. Boomers reap and enjoy the status quo, and so are (or have been, since 1979, at least) generally unwilling to do anything to upset it. Xers, in contrast, have no vested interest in the quiet life, and can be therefore counted upon to rock the boat, or fly into the World Trade Centre, upon the least provocation (in boomers’ eyes) or ethical imperative (in Xers’ own eyes).

Today’s Oz gives more detail on Kieber’s motives at the time of the “theft”, under the misleading headline “Revenge of the IT guy in Lowy case” (Kieber was apparently primarily a document scanner and indexer, which surely makes him more “arts graduate” than “IT guy”):

Kieber's job was to scan thousands of paper documents. Seeing first-hand how wealthy individuals conducted their own affairs - tax scams hiding millions of dollars of assets - left Kieber, by his own admission yesterday, with a growing sense of outrage. He plotted his revenge . . . "To be able to index the documents, we had to read every single one on our screens," Kieber said. "It was then I began to realise the very questionable business the LGT was often involved in and the dubious clients they were serving, the kind of business that goes beyond just facilitating massive tax evasion." . . .

Kieber said he was also involved in IT training of the 85 staff members of the LGT Trust, including the chief executive and board members. "When I was teaching the CEO or a member of the board or a trust client adviser, I confronted them about the LGT's questionable practices that I have seen in many files," he said. "Sometimes I always raised this topic with foundations' bank account managers from the LGT Bank. All these discussions were about files with strong indication to corruption, links to dictators, or business deals to avoid a US embargo, for example. "The answer was always the same: none of your business. Just stick to your designated job."

Oddly, today’s Oz doesn’t report the fact, which was widely reported in February, that Kieber is now living under a fresh identity in Australia. Also odd is the last line in a story in yesterday’s Oz, that:

“The report notes that on June 25, 2001, [Lowy Liechtenstein entity] Luperla was wound up, but the committee said there were no documents explaining why this decision was taken.”

A useful additional fact here may be that on 25 July 2001, a month after Luperla was wound up, Westfield America Inc (a public company in which the Lowy family are major shareholders) contracted to lease New York World Trade Centre’s retail section for 99 years.

Finally, speaking of 43 year-old IT guys, today’s Oz has another, completely unrelated, one also running amok on the job.

Terry Childs, this time a real (and reasonably well-paid) IT pointy-head, after being disciplined by his employer, the San Francisco Department of Technology, has configured the city’s computer network to administrator access by just one, secret password.

I don’t think that the aptly-named Childs is in the same ethical ball-park as Heinrich Kieber, but nonetheless this was definitely another of those “This guy’s got to be an Xer” stories. Enjoying the deckchair view from your supposedly unsinkable status quo, boomers?

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