Whichever firm is found to have accepted the Libyan leader's $3 billion will not be long for the Square Mile.
The question on everyone's lips – no, not 'Was James Franco stoned while he was hosting the Oscars last night?' – is 'Which London-based wealth manager accepted $3 billion from Colonel Gaddafi?' This could, of course, be a cruel rumour put about by the French to smear our private client industry, but the fact that one wealth manager told the Times he refused the money implies it was being shopped about.
Should we even attempt to take a moral view of this, or is money money? I would hope there are few people who are as purely, amorally capitalist as that, but I may well have been proved wrong by one of Mayfair's finest.
There are already standards on who you can accept money from (see the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group's extensive rules) and the FSA, for once, has been on top of it, announcing this month that 'recent developments in the Middle East have served to highlight the continuing need for vigilance and robust systems and controls in dealing with actual or potential politically exposed persons. We expect firms to consider the impact of these developments on their anti-money laundering policies and procedures in a risk-based manner, and to take the steps necessary to ensure they continue to meet their legal and regulatory anti-money laundering and reporting obligations.'
Quite how a firm can justify, even within the legalistic bounds of regulation, let alone the greater sphere of morality, accepting this money is curious. They can hardly claim that they forgot to ask who the beneficiary was. Does it point to a deeper, darker malaise in London's financial services, or is it a rogue agent?
Whichever firm is found to have accepted the Libyan leader's $3 billion will not be long for the City. There's no ROI big enough to validate that decision.