The PA who liberated millions from her super-rich bosses was simply doing her bit for the economy
Joyti De-Laurey will shortly be sentenced for stealing several million pounds from some City squillionaires. But if there was any justice in this world, Joyti would not only be a free woman, she'd be given a medal for services to the community.
True, she did filch over £4m from the bank accounts of three financial whiz-persons. Stealing things is wrong, as a rule, although if De-Laurey had confined herself to a few Post-it Notes, then she wouldn't have been splashed all over the newspapers. But here's the thing: De-Laurey has single-handedly put forward the best case for higher income taxes since Pitt the Younger and, at the same time, done a big favour to the shareholders and investors in Goldman Sachs and other mega-banks.
The most mind-blowing aspect of the whole affair is that the personal assistant managed to remove £4m from the accounts of three City bankers - and they didn't even notice. Is that crazy? Yes, but it's a sign of the twisted world they live in.
Michael Lewis's book on the lifestyles of rich and famous bankers, Liar's Poker, opens with an arresting scene: John Gutfreund, the head of trading at Salomon Brothers - at that time the ne plus ultra bank of Wall Street - challenging his chief bond trader John Meriwether to a childish game. Gutfreund wanted to play one round of liar's poker against Meriwether, just one hand, for $1m. And that was in 1986, when $1m was worth something.
Sadly, the game was never played - Gutfreund backed down when Meriwether raised the stakes to $10m - but it certainly wasn't lack of money that stopped them. Scott Mead of Goldman Sachs, one of the three people from whom De-Laurey liberated the £4m, had reaped around £50m when Goldman Sachs floated in 1999. He reaped that windfall because he was a partner of the investment bank when it went public - in other words, he was in the right place at the right time. And so too, in a way, was De-Laurey.
Fools and their money are soon parted, and so it was that Mead, Jennifer Moses and Ron Beller allowed a proportion of their wealth to be redistributed to their PA, who earned - in her best year - £38,000, a fraction of the salaries and bonuses they were paid.
This is where De-Laurey was doing them a favour. The trio were far too busy with their 6am meetings and long-distance business trips to enjoy or even know how much money they had. It was just lying dormant in their accounts, doing nothing. Instead, De-Laurey took out their money for a brisk trot down to the shops - like exercising a dog, really.
Frankly, it was much better for the economy that the £4m was in circulation, providing employment and creating profits, being recycled into other hands. True, De-Laurey did spend the money on Cartier jewellery, but don't kid yourself the aggrieved trio were going to use it to help the homeless. For all the talk of De-Laurey wanting to "fund a lavish lifestyle", what do you think the trio were using it for?
De-Laurey was only doing to the bankers what they have been doing to investors and governments for years - fleecing them. Goldman Sachs once made more annual profit ($2.6bn) than the national income of Tanzania ($2.2bn). It was Goldman Sachs that allowed Robert Maxwell to illicitly shuffle pension funds around. The difference is that one gets sent to Holloway prison, and the other gets the fast car, the plush house and the big power-boat.
As crimes go, this was a victimless one. Goldman Sachs's official reaction to the verdict on Tuesday was that this was "an extremely unpleasant incident". Unpleasant? So is halitosis, but people don't get sent to jail for it. Although maybe they should.