Episode Thirty Seven
‘You know Mary in the long game the winner is the one who is still standing.’ Sure, sure James. And you expect it to be someone other than me, don’t you?
‘May I point out James that Brexit takes place in March. That’s around the corner. It isn’t a question of kicking the can down the road a few more times.’
‘It was only a way of speaking. You know how much I support you, PM, in your efforts to secure us the right deal. It’s just…’ The rest died away as the intercom on Mary’s desk buzzed. She reached for the phone.
‘Ralston’s here to see you.’
‘Tell him to wait.’
‘Mary, if you’ve an appointment, we can take this up at another time.’
‘Ralston can wait a few minutes.’ She swivelled in her chair to face him. ‘The party must rally around the current agreement. After Salzburg, I was sure we’d crash out without a deal. Now it’s just a question of tying off some lose ends.’
‘But what of the Cabinet? The stories are wild.’
Mary’s gazed turned to Thatcher’s portrait. You went through this and survived. As can I ‘They’re a bunch of screaming babies. When they’ve calmed down, they’ll work to get this through.’
‘If you’re sure.’
‘Do you want to stay while I talk to Ralston?’ Mary pressed the buzzer on her desk.
‘I think I had better be on my way.’ James got to his feet and went to the door.
Before James could reach for the handle, the door opened.
‘Ah, Ralston. Good to see you.’
‘Sir James. I wasn’t expecting to see you here. I was going to come around a bit later. He looked over his shoulder at Mary. She stared back at him. Can we get on this this, please? He fished in his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. ‘For you.’ He paused momentarily. ‘Mind you don’t lose it.’
‘Of course I won’t.’ He’s given him one of those letters demanding a leadership election. The bastard! I’ll fire him for this!
‘Well, Mary, Jeremy.’ James stepped out the door, closing it behind him.
‘You wanted to see me.’ I didn’t want to see you, that’s for sure.
‘Thank you for your time, PM. There is a matter I wanted to discuss with your personally.’
Ralston fished into his pocket and pulled out another envelope. He passed it over. It’s got my name on it. Mary took it.
‘It’s my resignation.’
‘What?’ No! ‘You can’t!’
‘PM, I took over from Christoph at your request. I thought you trusted me to deliver Brexit. First you propose your Plan then you go behind my back and negotiate without me. I can’t support the agreement you’ve reached with the EU. Hence, I’m resigning.’
Mary flapped the envelope in her hand as if it were a fan. You shit, Ralston. Do you have any idea what this does to me? She examined his face. Yes, you effing do. You’re smiling inwardly at this. You’re loving my discomfort. ‘I can’t persuade you otherwise.’
‘No PM. My mind is made up.’
‘Very well. I understand.’ I bloody understand only too well. That letter. You’ve got it in for me. And to think I brought you into the cabinet. Her mind wandered to something John Major had said. “Recovery begins from the darkest moments.” That’s what’s going to happen and you, you little shit, will be in the dustbin of history, where you effing belong. She noticed him waiting for her to speak. You’ve planned this all along. Pretending to go along with it only to stab me in the back. You’re with JRM’s mob. You shyster!
‘Thank you, PM.’ He extended his hand. Mary pretended not to see it. ‘Well, thank you for the opportunity for serving in the Cabinet. It was most interesting.’
‘I’m glad you liked it. I’m sure you’ll find the backbenchers just as much to your liking.’
‘I’m sure I will.’ He hesitated a moment as if he planned to say something. ‘I’ll be off now.’
‘Yes. I think we’re done here, aren’t we?’
He grinned at her. ‘I think we are.’
Ralston made for the door, opened it, glanced at her before stepping through. The door swung to and clicked as it shut.
Mary stood staring at the door. What a bloody, bloody, bloody mess. Into her mind came an old poem. She tried to remember it. Something about standing fast when all others fail. Then she had it.
Mary stood on the burning wreck,
Whence all but she had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round her o’er her head.
Yet beautiful and bright she stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic mood,
A proud, though childlike form.
The crisis rolled on – she wouldn’t let go,
Without her mentor’s word;
That mentor, faint in Hades below,
Her voice no longer heard.
She called aloud – ‘Say, Maggie, say
If yet my task is stirring?’
She knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of her offspring.
‘Speak, Maggie!’ once again she cried,
‘If I may yet be done!’
– And but the booming plots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.
Upon her brow she felt their heat
And in her waving hair;
And look’d on that lone defeat,
In still yet brave despair.
And shouted but once more aloud,
‘Hey Maggie! must I stay?’
While o’er her fast, through hail and cloud,
The wreathing fires made sway.
* * *
Dancy emerged from the railway station and looked around. Not my usual stomping ground. I wonder why they have their offices here, of all places?
‘It’s just a short walk.’
‘I could have used the Bentley, George.’ It’s really much nicer than the train. Besides, I don’t get out in it much.
‘Sure, sure.’ George grinned. ‘And where would you have left the thing? This is Stratford, not Islington. I’ll bet you hundred-to-one that when you got back from wherever you left it, it had been vandalised.’ You can’t be serious. Are you?
‘You’re joking, right?’
‘Since when do lawyers joke?’ Yeah, there’s jokes about lawyers but they’re the least funny people to have to deal with. And that includes you, George. With you, it’s all about rules and regulations.
‘What time’s the meeting, again?’
‘Dancy, you got the letter. It’s eleven o’clock.’ He pulled out his mobile and checked the time. ‘We’ve plenty of time. Do you fancy a coffee beforehand?’
‘No, not really. But you go ahead.’
‘I’m fine. Let’s just get there. You never know, they may be happy to start the proceedings early.’ Yeah, like speeding up your execution. Just what I want to hear.
‘I’m not looking forward to this.’
‘I know you’re not Dancy. It’s like being summoned by the cops. Just by being at the station you feel you’ve committed a crime. With the FCA it’s the same, only they’ve got nicer premises.’ He guffawed. ‘Paid for by the likes of SilverRock.’ He gestured at the tall glass building they were heading towards. ‘Still. Keeps me employed.’ I bet they’re paying you handsomely for this.
‘I guess Linklaters does well out of this.’
‘We’re not too badly paid.’
‘We went through what to expect. Any last-minute suggestions?’ You’d better earn your fee, damn it!
‘You could head for City Airport and take a flight to Morocco. I’ll cover for you.’ What?
‘Uh?’ You can’t be serious?
‘Just lawyer humour. Come on, we’re there.’ He made for a corner of the building and the entrance with its revolving doors.
They entered the foyer. A huge sign behind the reception desk with the initials FCA, the C in white on a burgundy background announced the head office of the Financial Conduct Authority. To one side what looked like a huge drainpipe with holes in it ran above the ID readers. What’s that for? Gassing visitors? He gazed around at the foyer.
‘They’ve just moved in. This is only my third visit to the place. Impressive no?’ George gestured around the atrium. ‘It’s to tell the likes of you that they take conduct seriously.’ He marched over to the reception desk. Dancy followed behind him. ‘We’re here for the SilverRock meeting at 11 a.m.’
‘Please sign in. Do you have any identification?’ As if?
George provided his passport. Dancy took his from the inner pocket of his suit and passed it over. The receptionist scanned both before returning them. He tapped at his keyboard. There was a buzz. He did something that Dancy couldn’t see before handing over two lanyards. ‘Keep these on you at all times. Please return them afterwards. Your meeting is on the sixth floor.’ He glanced at the screen in front of him. ‘Meeting Room 6-05.’
They passed through security and headed for the lifts. One came very quickly. They got in. Before the door could close, a fresh-faced youngster with a hippy hairstyle and beard rushed over and joined them in the lift. He immediately pressed the fourth-floor button before giving them the once over.
George pressed the sixth floor.
The lift doors closed, and it rose up with a whoosh before almost immediately stopping at the first floor. The doors opened and a young woman in white blouse and black slacks got in. She pressed the eighth flour button. She stood just in front of Dancy. He could smell her perfume. Just like Quinn. He felt both sad and angry. I’ve got to put that aside. What’s happening here is important.
Three floors up they said goodbye to the hipster.
Now with the woman, who eyed them in an uninterested sort of way, they headed further up.
The lift stopped again. Dancy followed George, who seemed to know where they were going after they emerged into a corridor. An arrowed sign pointed towards the meeting room they wanted.
At the door to the room, George stopped. ‘Remember what I told you. Give it to them straight. I’ll be beside you and can prompt if needed. But it is your show.’
‘We’ve been over all this before.’
George smiled. ‘Just so you remember.’ He opened the door.
They went in.
Dancy was surprised to see Herb sitting in one of the chairs. Shit! What are you doing here?
‘Hello there, Dancy.’ He sounded cold, indifferent. In other words, his usual self. I thought it was just me and George. ‘They asked me to join the meeting. Didn’t anyone tell you?’ He gave George a searching glance.
‘Good to see you Herb.’ He gestured at Dancy. ‘You know the score, right?’
Herb waved a hand in the air. ‘I’ve been in this business a long time. Of course, I do.’ What’s going on here?
George indicated a chair and Dancy went and sat down in it. George positioned himself between the two of them. He pulled out an iPad from his case and set it on the table. He then glanced at them both. ‘What a happy band of brothers we make.’ Brothers?
They waited in silence.
A little while later, the conference room door opened, and a man and a woman entered. The man surveyed them. ‘Sorry to keep you waiting.’ He waved his hand to his companion. ‘May I introduce Sarah Dutton. She works with me in Market Oversight.’ She nodded in acknowledgement.
George got up and shook hands with her. Dancy followed her lead. Herb remained seated. Thanks, Herb, just get under her skin by not saying hello.
‘You of course know me.’
‘How could we not?’ George grinned. He pointed. ‘Jason, I take it you know Herb?’
‘We’ve not met personally.’ He wrinkled a wry smile at the corner of his lip. ‘But we’ve corresponded a few times.’
‘Good to see you too, Jason.’ Herb got to his feet and shook the man’s hand. He sat down again. What about Sarah?
‘Shall we be seated?’ Sarah sat down next to Jason.
‘If you don’t mind, we would like to record the meeting?’ Sarah produced a recorder and set it down on the table.
George pointed at his iPad. ‘Of course not. I, too, would like to make a record.’
Sarah flashed him a smile. ‘By all means.’ She pressed a button on her machine. George touched his screen.
‘Now that’s settled, shall we get on with the business?’ Jason focused his attention on Dancy. ‘As you will no doubt be aware,’ he quickly glanced at both George and Herb, ‘we received a STOR* report from Herb here about certain trades. Normally, we can resolve these simply by asking for more information from the writer. However, in your case, we need some additional clarification. Hence this meeting. I should emphasise that it is purely for disclosure purposes.’ He shot a glance at George. ‘We simply wish to understand what went on so that we can mark the case as closed.’ He paused. Yeah, that’s what George said. ‘So, we need to ask you a few questions, that’s all.’
‘That’s what I’ve been told.’
‘Good. I can skip further explanation.’ He stopped and gestured at the middle office manager. ‘We asked Herb to attend because he wrote the report. He has intricate knowledge of SilverRock’s settlement and record keeping processes that Sarah and I believe may be helpful to our understanding.’ He looked at Herb. ‘Thank you for attending.’
‘Your wish is my command.’
‘Surely, we’re not that frightening?’
‘They said that of the inquisition.’
Jason grinned. ‘Alas, we don’t get to use thumbscrews.’
‘More’s the pity.’ Jessuz! Stop it!
‘Dancy. Let me briefly review the facts as we understand them. First I must ask you to confirm your position at SilverRock.’
‘I am a quantitative strategy analyst.’
‘Do you manage funds?’
‘I am deputy manager of the Abu Dhabi Series One fund.’
‘Thank you. I would now like to turn to the reason of this meeting. Starting on August 26 you made a series of short-term trades, purchases and then sales of shares and currencies that according to the STOR you failed to properly report.’ He looked at the list. ‘Do I need to itemise these?’
‘No, there was an internal meeting where these were discussed.’
‘Do you deny making the trades?’ What are you getting at?
‘Do you deny that you failed to properly report these trades when you made them?’ I only delayed reporting them. Why isn’t Rocco here to explain it all?
‘I did report them.’ You can’t pin that on me.
‘The report says you didn’t.’
‘I did account for them as is the normal process when one makes a trade.’
‘Are you claiming what happened is a systems error?’
‘I don’t know why they weren’t properly reported.’
Jason turned to Herb. ‘Do you have any comments on this?’
‘If Dancy had followed correct procedures with these trades, they would have been recorded at the time they were executed. Not in arrears as happened.’
‘That is what it states in the STOR.’ He tapped his finger on the table. ‘What do you have to say about this, Dancy?’
‘I completed the requirement when I had time to do so. I was very busy when I made these trades.’
‘So it would seem.’
Sarah caught Jason’s arm.
‘Yes, of course, Sarah, I know what you are thinking.’ He turned back to Herb. ‘You mention a suspicious set of outcomes for these trades. For the record, would you elaborate.’
‘Sure. What I found was that the vast majority of these trades made a profit when confirmed to the Abu Dhabi account. The others, well, let us say, the outcome was very mixed.’
‘What happened to most of these?’
‘They lost money.’
‘Was Dancy permitted to book trades to accounts other than the Abu Dhabi one?’
‘There was a tacit agreement that he was allowed to make trades for five other accounts. It is these that suffered losses.’
‘Just so I fully understand the situation and so I can get this absolutely straight. We have a situation where the recording of the beneficiary of the trade was delayed and that profitable trades ex post were booked to the Abu Dhabi account and unprofitable accounts were booked to the other accounts.’
‘That’s what the record shows.’
‘Thank you, Herb.’ He glanced at Sarah before turning to Dancy. ‘Do you have any comments to make about this?’ Shit, how do I explain Rocco’s strategy without making it look as if I was engaging in fraud.
‘It’s just how things panned out.’
‘And you seriously expect the FCA to believe that?’ Well, you’re not going to get me to tell you I manipulated the trades.
‘It was luck.’
‘Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider your answer?’ How can I?
‘No. The trades were legitimate.’
‘Right.’ Jason got up. ‘If you’ll excuse us a minute. Sarah, can we talk privately.’
The two of them left the meeting room, closing the door behind them when they left.
George reached over to the recorder and punched the pause button.
‘I have to tell you, Dancy, that I think the FCA will want to follow up on this. They’re not convinced by your account of these trades.’
‘But it’s what happened.’
‘Well, you’ll need to come up with something more than luck being behind the outcomes. I thought we’d discussed what you were going to say?’
‘But that was before what Herb said.’
George looked at Herb. ‘You didn’t tell me about the gains and losses when we discussed the STOR.’
‘You never asked.’
Aren’t we all on the same side here?’
The door opened. Jason and Sarah returned and resumed their seats. George smiled at Sarah as he punched the play button on the recorder.
‘We have considered the evidence to date and this meeting we consider there is a prima facie case of professional misconduct under MAR** Article 16.’ Jason turned to Sarah. ‘Please note for the record that as of this moment Dancy O’Donnell is deemed to be officially under investigation pursuant to disciplinary hearings.’ He gazed at Dancy. ‘SilverRock will be informed of this decision.’
George cleared his throat. ‘While we respect your decision, isn’t this a bit harsh?’
‘There’s been too many instances in recent years of traders engaging in dubious practices.’ He looked at Dancy. ‘We are required to fully investigate every such instance.’ He got to his feet. ‘This meeting is at an end.’
Sarah grabbed her recorder and stood up. She followed Jason as he left the room. Herb got to his feet, glared at Dancy and strolled to the door and left.
Dancy slammed his fist on the table. ‘Shit, George, why didn’t you argue with them? That’s what we’re paying you for.’
‘What? And make a bad situation worse? You don’t want to antagonise these people.’
‘Listen Dancy. You’ll be fine as long as what you did was according to the rules.’
*STOR: Suspicious Transaction and Order Report
** Market Abuse Regulation