Those of a certain age will be familiar with the picture above. This nineteenth century painting by Yeames shows an imagined scene from the aftermath of the English Civil Wars of the seventeenth century.
His house captured by the Parliament forces (Right but Repulsive) the son of a king’s man, a Cavalier (Wrong but Wromantic) is questioned as to the whereabouts of his father in the presence of the sobbing females of the family.
This image came to mind today in receipt of one of those ‘know your customer’ forms from a brokerage firm. As they are about to be taken over I imagine that this is because the new owners want to have spotlessly clean noses in the eyes of what are laughingly known as financial regulators – the whitewash merchants of the house of cards that masquerade as financial institutions.
Leo hasn’t dealt through these brokers for some time and was quite surprised to find that his remaining holdings there had any value at all, but there was enough to make it worth cashing in so that was what he decided to do.
Except that he could not.
Not until he had filled out and returned the form together with proof of his identity.
It might be his money, but he couldn’t have it.
So, moaning at the expense of having to have his passport certified, he started to look at the form itself.
Which is where ‘And when did you last see your father?’ comes in.
After questions as to one’s name and address, and for some mad reason telephone numbers….for goodness’ sake, when do brokers ever ‘phone their clients…the form got into its stride.
Occupation….where the line for ‘Other’ proved tempting.
Lion tamer? Saggar maker’s bottom knocker? Arslikhan yoga specialist?
If you were retired, what was the name of your previous employer – and probably when did you last see him….
And what, were you to be one of the few not employed on a zero hours contract, was your gross annual income…..
Why they should think that income is derived exclusively from employment is beyond me…..the lack of correlation between politicians’ salaries and their actual income being a case in point.
The form is eating up the miles now…
What, it seeks to know, is the intended purpose of the account.
They are brokers…what do they think that their clients want to do!
They want to buy and sell traded stock, not to use the expertise of the firm to set up a whelk stall – as clearly they would be incompetent to do so, nor arrange a piss up in a brewery – ditto.
It then turns to what it laughingly calls your ‘wealth’.
It wants to know how much you have, which in Leo’s view is for him to know and for others to refrain from finding out.
It also wants to know how many years and months it took you to fill up your piggy bank…and where.
Leo is not minded to turn the pig upside down to check the origin of the coins within and the level of its Plimsoll Line is no business of his broker.
The form gets heavy.
It wants to know how much of the contents of your piggy bank comes from employment….and who employed you…and for how long…
Up a gum tree there…Leo classes himself as unemployable by reason of sanity.
Have you made any pennies from trading activities?
White slaving? Fitting out an East Indiaman?
No…..they mean the stock market, though this is nowhere clearly stated.
What types of investments have been traded?
Well, there were rubber plantation stocks when there were still rubber plantations…
Average size of investments?
Whatever cash was going spare in the back pocket.
Describe the expertise that enables you to profit from such activity.
Doing the opposite of anything recommended by The Financial Times.
The form is breathing heavily by now…
Has any of your wealth been derived from inheritance?
Chance would be a fine thing….
And if so how did the deceased get his claws on it?
Unfortunately no one had thought to interrogate the grandfather on the source of his wealth, probably fearing a sharp retort and clip round the ear for impudence.
Has any of your wealth derived from selling assets?
A list of properties bought and sold over the years would require a mini Domesday Book and if anyone thinks Leo can remember at this date all the buying and selling prices then they are in for a severe disappointment.
The most tempting section is the last…has any of your wealth been derived from a different source to those listed previously?
This is where all the drug dealers, bankers specialising in derivatives and other criminals must be breathing a sigh of relief.
At last they can unburden their souls…at last they can declare all!
So I imagine that that part of the form will remain forever blank.
The wide range of the questions is in itself questionable. The firm may be concerned for the origin of the monies supporting the trading activities of its clients…but has no business putting its snout into the totality of its clients’ affairs.
But if the client wishes to extract his money, the form must be filled out.
Under Common Law, in the period from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century, the law took a dim view of those who refused to plead either guilty or not guilty and would have them carted off to a cell where they would be stretched out on the floor and have heavy stones placed upon their chests until they either decided to plead or died.
It was known, and aptly so, as the ‘peine forte et dure’….but there were those who preferred to die in this way to avoid being found guilty and having their estates confiscated, which would have left their families destitute.
This form is another demand that you should plead…but as yet the penalty for not so doing is financial rather than physical. You lose your dosh.
But give the regulators a few more years and I wouldn’t mind betting that they’ll be putting out contracts for heavy stones…