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EDITORIAL Wirecard, KPMG and the crises of capitalism

BRITAIN has arguably the most heavily financialised economy in the world. 

In our daily lives this manifests itself in a constant stream of transactions, almost all of which entail entanglement with transnational corporate giants and privatised utilities and transport, and always to the profit of these and the commercial entities that process these transactions.

The coronavirus lockdown has reduced the daily use of old-fashioned money of the folding and metal kind and almost all transactions now necessitate the use of bank cards.

One of the leading organisations in this sector, Wirecard, is prevented from releasing its 2019 results because long-standing doubts about the integrity of its accounts have become too pressing to ignore. 

Its shares crashed and its market capitalisation has fallen from €24 billion to under €5bn.

There are the usual revelations ending up in a recognition that the publication of its accounts, delayed three times since earlier this year, may not happen, thus breaching arrangements with its banks and lenders.

So far, so much a routine revelation that a transnational corporation is a dodgy as a nine-bob note.

What adds to the entertainment of we who view corporate capitalism’s constant crises of confidence as a tragicomedy that means private ownership must be confined to the dustbin of history is the appointment of KPMG to conduct an “independent” audit into Wirecard.

KPMG is the auditing group criticised over the £58 million hole in fashion retailer Ted Baker’s accounts; investigated by the Financial Reporting Council over the failure (also involving PriceWaterhouse Cooper) to spot a bookkeeping scandal at haulage firm Eddie Stobart and fined $50m by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for violating auditor integrity regulations.

We know that irony is extinct when we discover that KPMG publishes an annual “Fraud Barometer” and has been tracking trends in fraudulent dealing since 1980.

Financialisation is the determining characteristic of present-day neoliberal capitalism. 

Everything we need and use is under the cosh of capital in which our utilities, enterprises, transport, housing, hospitals and every material asset is securitised and traded for profit.

In as far as it is possible — at the level of the corporate world — to make a distinction between capital investment in productive activities that result in the creation of material values and financial speculation the trend is towards even more parasitic activity.

The morbid concentration of power in the network of such monopoly corporations — numbering in hundreds rather than thousands — means the overweening power of financial capital is, at present, decisive.

It seems that by the nature of this beast it cannot make rational decisions which benefit humanity rather than pursue profit. 

The crisis at Wirecard shows that even the corporate mechanisms that have developed to manage its routine functioning — necessary for investors to retain confidence in the probity of the corporate entities and for the flow of profits — are deficient.

In the management of its own affairs, the financialised neoliberalism of corporate capitalism is incompetent; in the conduct of our affairs it is malign.

It produces financial crises on the 2008 model that cannot be resolved except by massive state intervention with our money.

Ownership in the hands of the people and the state in the hands of the working class would make for a better world.

Who will carry the can?

THE coronavirus has produced its own trail of corporate mismanagement, government incompetence and wasted time and resources. 

The collapse of the government’s bespoke infection tracking app is the latest example of corporate failure and at some point we may find out who profited and who will carry the can. But don’t bet on it.

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