Poll seeks scapegoat for credit crisis

LONDON Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:06am BST

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington October 23, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington October 23, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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LONDON (Reuters) - Greedy bankers are routinely blamed for the credit crisis but one poll of -- well, financiers -- spreads the blame more widely.

Gary Jenkins, Head of Fixed Income Research at Evolution Securities, wanted a more specific scapegoat and ran a poll of about 200 mostly fund managers and investors asking them to pick their credit crisis culprit.

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was the clear winner, picking up 35 percent of the votes. Once considered one of the world's greatest central bankers, he has been widely criticised over the past year for low interest rate policies that helped fuel the credit boom.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton figured quite prominently with about 10 percent of votes, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown also got quite a few.

Some bankers were singled out, including Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland and Richard Fuld, the head of Lehman Brothers, the U.S. investment bank which filed for bankruptcy protection last September.

There were a few more unusual choices: Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, the legendary King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold, Sarah Beeny, who hosts property TV shows in Britain and Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor.

One vote went to "the Belgians" and another to Ray Wilkins, an assistant team coach at Chelsea, the football club.

Jenkins himself suggested Microsoft founder Bill Gates take some blame for putting together the technology -- spreadsheets and presentation software -- that made it easy to create and sell the complex credit products that played a key role.

"That's a bit tongue-in-cheek," he said. "If I had to choose one person I would choose Greenspan," adding that of course it was unfair to blame one person.

He said Greenspan's reputation had rapidly switched from being one of the world's leading economic thinkers to someone who helped cause the credit binge and bust.

"He's like a sporting star who's gone from hero to zero," said Jenkins. "He's the Ronan O'Gara of central banking," referring to an Irish rugby star who has recently upset fans for bungling a tackle.

(Reporting by Jane Merriman; editing by Sara Ledwith)

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