One of Britain’s most reviled public figures, Sir Fred Goodwin, is trending on Twitter in the UK today, where he is once again the target of withering public derision.
This morning, on the floor of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat MP John Hemmings revealed: “In a secret hearing this week, Fred Goodwin has obtained a super-injunction preventing him being identified as a banker.”
Such “super-injunctions” make it illegal to publish any information about their subjects, and have come under increasing fire in the UK.
It seems especially bizarre to be unable to refer to Fred Goodwin as a banker. Goodwin presided over the rise and even more spectacular fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland and has become something of a poster-boy for the failure of the banking system.
Often referred to as “Fred the Shred,” Goodwin particularly angered the British public who viewed his personal compensation as an obscene extravagance in the face of RBS’s implosion — in Goodwin’s last year as its chief executive, the bank lost more than £24 billion ($38.5 billion). He’s been cited by British journalists as one of the handful of people most responsible for the financial meltdown and was even named by the Observer’s Daniel Gross as “The World’s Worst Banker” — a title that seems to have stuck.
Yet it appears that now journalists in the UK may not legally be able to identify him as a banker at all.
“The terms of the injunction are so strict,” wrote The Telegraph, “that [we] cannot reveal the nature of the information that Sir Fred Goodwin is attempting to protect.” The paper pointed out that, under a super-injunction, “even reporting the existence of the injunction is banned.”
The only way the Telegraph and other papers were able to mention the injunction was by covering what Hemmings said about it in the House of Commons, which was protected by parliamentary privilege.
The existence of super-injunctions seems especially ironic in a country that many people feel invented tabloid journalism. At the same time, their recent use by celebrities and business executives has come under increasing criticism.
“Will the government have a debate or a statement on freedom of speech,” Hemmings asked from the floor of Commons, “and whether there’s one rule for the rich like Fred Goodwin and one rule for the poor?”
– Our colleague, BBC Business Editor Robert Peston, tweeted:
@Peston: Back to that link. I assumed we were covered by qualified privilege. But lawyer says risk of contempt coz of draconian super injunction
– BBC presenter Andrew Neil had this to say:
@afneil: Is a judicial system which grants super injunctions compatible with a free society?
– Others had a field day:
@paul__lewis: Does the ban on calling Fred Goodwin a banker apply to tweets? If so, oops.
@garydunion: Is Fred Goodwin a banker? I heard Fred Goodwin is a banker. Did you hear Fred Goodwin is a banker? #fredgoodwinisabanker
@dougsom: Fred Goodwin (not a banker, I hear) is trending like crazy. Those superinjunctions work a treat eh? pffft!
@Puffles2010: Puffles notes global decentralised nature of communications makes enforcement of super-injunctions almost impossible
@MediocreDave: Wait, can someone fill me in on what Fred Goodwin’s profession is please?
@Olaindeach: You’d think Fred Goodwin would prefer to be known as banker, instead of as the guy who ruined Royal Bank of Scotland.
@siwhitehouse: If it had been bankers taking out an injunction on Fred Goodwin from describing himself as a banker (which he is) I could have understood it.
@adam_j666: If we’re not allowed to call Fred Goodwin a banker, perhaps we should just think of a word that rhymes with it instead #fredgoodwinisabankerRead More