Let's immortalise failure in bronze

17:00, May 18 2013

I'd put up a statue to Allan Hubbard.

That is if I won millions on the lottery, which is pretty unlikely given I have stubbornly failed to buy tickets for the past 10 years.

I'd put my weather resistant bronze Allan waving a South Canterbury Finance prospectus up in a field on the edge of State Highway 1 just outside Auckland.

There he would tower, a becardiganed colossus testifying to the almighty stuff-up the great Southern man with the cult-like following made of his finance company, and the packet he cost me and everyone else who pays tax.

Why would I commemorate such a failure in bronze?

Because while we need no help in remembering our greatest sons and daughters, we seem utterly incapable as a society of learning from our worst.


I figure with a permanent reminder in bronze of people like old Mother Hubbard the legend of their deeds would dim less quickly, as might the lessons learned.

In my younger years I was greatly taken by romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Ozymandias, of the traveller standing, musing before the fallen statue of an ancient king whose works had crumbled to rubble.

People whizzing in and out of Auckland could look on my bronze Allan and, to paraphrase Shelley: "Look on my works, ye masses, and diversify".

Hubbard wouldn't be alone either.

He would be flanked by the prime movers in great financial stuff-ups of decades recent and more distant, all chosen to prompt memories of vast sums lost, sleepy and impotent regulators, opaque investment offerings, taxpayer bailouts, inadequate sentences and ordinary folk running massive unrecognised risks with their hard-earned savings.

You would have to have a roly-poly Mark Bryers there given the property-related carnage his Blue Chip caused.

I might also put up a Mr "I did nothing wrong" Mark Hotchin of Hanover sharing a plinth with Eric Watson.

I would have the diminutive Rod Petricevic on his own mini-plinth waiving both a Bridgecorp prospectus, and also a Euro-National share certificate.

Yes, we did let him do it to us twice.

Rod reminds me not to be too 21st century-biased.

Alan Hawkins of Equiticorp would have to be there too, the twinkle-eyed posterboy of the 1987 sharemarket crash which took down Petricevic's Euro-National.

There would have to be room for Ray Smith of Goldcorp lest we forget a man who in the 80s sold certificates backed by "unallocated" gold that ended up being ruled the property of BNZ.

And surely a representative of that worthy bank, which has had to be bailed out twice by the government - once in 1895 and then again in 1990 - should also have a spot in my rank of remembrance.

I would have an ANZ fund manager leafing through a financial report to represent the sale of derivatives funds to little old ladies and gents in the run-up to the Global Financial Crisis.

After said oldies lost most of their money, the bank dug into its enormous pockets (a bit reluctantly and faced with well-organised investors) and made good investors' losses.

The one over-riding message of my lottery-funded stunt?

That would be carried in the line of plinths I would leave empty for the next wave of grotesque failures, whether they be in five years, 10, or 20.

That message is: tread carefully, as what took a lifetime to earn can be lost just like that.

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