A very peculiar protest

Demonstrations at St. Paul's Cathedral do concern the private equity industry, although protesters don't seem sure exactly what private equity means

Being a mild-mannered sort of financial magazine intro section, First Round doesn’t really go in for mass demonstrations – particularly if the protestors are objecting to the fundamental injustices of the capitalist system (since that would feel a bit hypocritical, in the circumstances).

Nonetheless, we couldn’t help but be intrigued when the Occupy London movement, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, decided to pitch its tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral, just five minutes down the road from PEI HQ. Were we the enemy? Were we, in their considered view, nothing more than fully paid-up lickspittle running-dog lackeys of the capitalist-imperialist regime?

As it turns out, the more appropriate question would have been: did they actually have a considered view? In an act of bravery worthy of the great war reporters, fearless PEI journalist Nicholas Donato donned his (metaphorical) flak jacket and literally walked unopposed to St. Paul’s to pose the $64,000 question: “So, um, what are you doing, exactly?”

 Turns out that the motley crew outside the cathedral was definitely anti-something very significant, although not many of them seemed entirely sure what. Banks, maybe. Or possibly the Coalition Government’s cuts. Or National Health Service reform. Or tuition fees. Or Liam Fox (see p. 6). Or perhaps something else entirely. Either way, there was unanimous consensus that it was A Very Bad Thing.

And what, pray, of private equity, asked our intrepid hack? How much did they know about it? Was it part of the problem, or part of the solution?

“The private equity model to me basically means loading up companies with too much debt and hoping to profit. They don’t care what it means to society,” snorted one.

“It’s all ridiculous; I can’t see how it benefits anybody. I can’t see a direct benefit at all for people’s lives. Private equity is just playing with money,” sniffed another.

“My theory is that they probably sound like noble ideas, buying out public companies [sic]. But you can corrupt these things if you want to, that’s the problem. It’s too easy to abuse. You can set up any scheme you like and someone will find a way to exploit it in a capitalist system. It just benefits someone who wants to make a lot of money. Nothing is sacred anymore,” snivelled a third.

However, First Round is duty bound to admit that by far the most common answer was something along the lines of: ‘Eh? Private equity? What’s that?’

The standards of financial literacy in the UK… Now there’s something worth protesting about.