This might turn out to be a foolish blog posting. Nevertheless, I have to say something.
The sadness I feel at the death of a nurse in London this week is overwhelming. I know nothing about this woman other than that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and doing her best to do her job.
The media reaction has been predictable and disheartening. I expect journalists and media personalities will learn nothing from the episode. This calamity will soon be superseded by another outrage.
From 2006 to 2009 I was in the wrong place at the wrong time while I was trying my best to do a difficult job. Australia’s biggest superannuation fraud made headline news and provided “grabs” for electronic media coverage for many months in late 2009 and 2010. I had the misfortune to be Chairman of the trustee board overseeing the investment fund that turned out to be the structure underlying the fraud.
There are many details of the fraud that are still a mystery to me. The main perpetrator is in prison mainly because he misled investors and lied repeatedly to me and the other Directors. Those of us who were still Directors at the end of 2009 voluntarily excluded ourselves from the financial services industry under enormous pressure and in line with legal advice. In other words, we acknowledged supposed sins of omission – with the benefit of hindsight it is possibly arguable we could have asked more questions. We were examined at length in court hearings and by the regulators. Perhaps there will be more examinations. Who can say? Nowadays I take nothing for granted.
The media coverage of these events was lamentable. The charge was led by a journalist for a major daily and a blogger with an international following. Most articles exhibited a lack of attention to research and an inability to understand the full set of facts in play. The voluntary undertakings entered into by the Directors were quite inaccurately labeled “bans”. At no point was it acknowledged that the regulators had not attributed any dishonest acts or benefits to me or any of the other non-executive Directors.
However, the writings of the journalist and blogger both took a personal turn. Because I am a writer, they chose to lampoon me in a series of articles and blog postings. One of the journalist’s colleagues also wrote about me. I have no idea whether they worked together. The outcome was my public humiliation. What else could they have expected?
For his efforts the journalist won an award. The blogger became a media celebrity and gained great advantage for his investment business.
As for me there were rather less palatable results. My career of 35 years was over – ended by the criminal acts of others and the parallel publicity. My reputation was ruined with consequent deleterious implications for my confidence and self-esteem. People in the financial services industry started to avoid me – to the extent of crossing the street if they saw me approaching. I lost almost all of my so-called friends. My personal finances were demolished. I lost my house. Today my focus is on directing my limited cash flow to pay interest on massive debts. (I should add that the Directors’ insurance was denied by the providers on spurious grounds and we footed our own legal bills. None of us can afford to fund a challenge of the insurer's decision). The saga contributed to the end of my marriage. It became unwise for me to advise my children on their careers and life choices. I found myself unable to attend services at my church. One former employer – an influential man of the church – provided damning quotes for articles about me. His only motivation seems to have been his personal amusement.
At the same time, I was gutted by the plight of the investors who lost their money. Thankfully, many have now been compensated. Others have not been so lucky and there is not an hour goes by when I do not think about them and the way that crime has affected their lives.
My health has deteriorated sharply. I am on multiple medications. I rent a tiny, dilapidated flat. However, I am now able spend my days working – for which I am truly grateful – after a very long stretch without a full time position. I have no hopes for retirement. Most of my spare time I am alone. I probably drink too much.
Writing is my solace and I prize sleep as an escape – although nightmares are frequent. I have planned suicide several times – more times than I can count. I have been so low that I have called LifeLine. But I am still here because, like Hamlet and many others, I am afraid.
I can no longer bring myself easily to trust people. I hate journalists, lawyers and insurance companies. I also hate a man in prison and his unpunished accomplices overseas.
Today’s newspapers say that there is concern for the health and wellbeing of the radio personalities involved in the prank that has become linked to a tragedy. This is probably a time to learn and a time to forgive. My heart goes out to the family and friends of a woman in London.