≡ Menu

Two excellent interviews on Silfur Egils

Yesterday’s Silfur Egils* was excellent. The two most notable interviews in my opinion were those with Þorvaldur Gylfason, a professor of economics at the University of Iceland, and with William K. Black, an American lawyer and former bank regulator who is an expert in white-collar crime.

Þorvaldur Gylfason is a man of strong opinions with a keen intellect and common sense. [I interviewed him here a few weeks after the collapse.] He is a regular guest in Silfur Egils and always has something good to say. Yesterday was no exception. I can’t get into everything he said, but for me there were two main points. First, that he would like the Special Investigative Committee into the bank collapse [authors of the Black Report] to continue their work for the Icelandic state as a regulatory body. This would be similar to the National Economic Institute, which was dismantled by Davíð Oddsson when he was prime minister, because he felt they were “too negative”. Secondly, he proposed that Icelandic authorities collaborate with Polish authorities, who recently passed a law to remove from some of the country’s former politicians special pensions and other perks that they had essentially allocated themselves. The same thing happened here in Iceland — just prior to stepping down as prime minister, Davíð Oddsson introduced a bill to raise pension payments for retired politicians to amounts far greater than those for the regular old proletariat. That bill was passed by the Icelandic parliament. For those who understand Icelandic, the interview with Þorvaldur Gylfason can be seen here on the RÚV website.

The interview with William Black was no less interesting. He pointed out aspects of the Black Report – or rather omissions in the Black Report – that are not discernible to the regular layperson. [To be fair, Þorvaldur Gylfason also pointed out some omissions in the Black Report, even though he felt it was fundamentally a very good document.] He also maintained without flinching that the top executives in the Icelandic banks operated with criminal intent and should be tried as criminals. Many people are now calling for the Icelandic government to hire William Black as an advisor, similar to what happened with Eva Joly after she appeared in Silfur Egils. William Black is giving two lectures at the University of Iceland today, and I am very interested to know whether anything comes of his appointment. You can watch the interview with him here on the RÚV website.

RÚV will at some point remove those videos [and some people outside of Iceland sometimes have trouble viewing them], so they are also available on Lára Hanna’s blog [the first and second videos when you scroll down.] Lára Hanna also links to a recent Bill Moyers PBS interview with William Black here.

* An influential weekly talk show that deals with current affairs.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kevin May 3, 2010, 1:03 pm

    I’m a student at the University and would be interested in hearing William Black speak–when is the lecture?? I can’t find info online.

  • rod May 3, 2010, 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the links. I found this absolutely gripping. It must be preserved.

    BTW There was an excellent article in Der Spiegel concerning the rating agencies:

  • alda May 3, 2010, 1:30 pm

    Kevin – Tuesday and Wednesday from 12-13.30 in Askja (room 132). See here: http://silfuregils.eyjan.is/2010/05/03/fyrirlestrar-blacks/

    rod – I absolutely agree. Glad you found them interesting.

  • Rik Hardy May 3, 2010, 2:57 pm

    So what do we have to do to get Black to work for us?
    I find it very typical and very boring that the “criminals” in the banks and in the government tend to say that “no laws were broken”, which is just another way of saying that every possible attempt was made to break every moral law known to man, while the letter of the law, the absence of relevant law and the loopholes in the law were also exploited to the utmost limits.
    Jack the Ripper might have claimed that there were no laws specifically banning the use of scalpels in acts of violence…

  • alda May 3, 2010, 3:02 pm

    Rik – are you on Facebook? join here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119325251419779&ref=mf

  • Rik Hardy May 3, 2010, 5:14 pm

    Thanks Alda.
    Just what I needed.

  • Marc May 3, 2010, 8:51 pm

    The otherwise very dour site VoxEu has an article on Iceland, the meltdown & the black book. To be honest, although the content is not new or revealing, it’s still usefull that you are being explained in plain english that, in essence, people close to the trough cannot keep their hands out of it. (exceptions do exist!). It should teach all of us some things:
    1. Iceland is not the exception
    2. Where lots of money comes through, absolute transparancy is a MUST.
    3. The penalties for what is called ‘white-collar crime’ should be reviewed urgently. How can anyone justify that killing one person justifies years and years of prison, but condemning a whole nation to misery is what? a slap on the wrist?

  • sylvia hikins May 3, 2010, 10:53 pm

    alda, thanks for your interesting and crystal clear summary of the programme. I hope Iceland does engage William Black and even more importantly, make the Special Investigative Committee a regulatory body (but working within a transparent stucture of Governance). Such a move would go a long way in restoring international confidence in Iceland and this in turn may encourage
    sustainable investment.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • jim May 4, 2010, 7:38 am

    Following your advise I watched the Bill Black interview and was very impressed. He is always articulate without the usual verbosity and his plain speaking presentation endorses his credibility.
    Having said that, I thought Silfur a little sycophantic with his responses. Just because I nodded and chuckled and agreed. This may be his style but even though I liked everything Black had to say I expected a bit more objectivity from a journalist. Im mean RUV isnt Fox News. Is it?
    But am really grateful to The Iceland Weather Report to be able distribute this interview to all those who [like me] dont really understand the how why and wherefore. Thank you

  • Frank Lynch May 4, 2010, 10:33 am

    At least you guys are going after your banking weasels. Here, if they’re still not in place, they’ve either retired on eye watering pensions or been taken on as government advisors on how to prevent a similar banking collapse in the future! The finance/business/political/upper-middle class elites protect their own, even as they intend to financially hammer the rest of us through the floor after May 6th; and that is what the 3 main parties of upper/middle class wasters want us to enthusiastically vote for
    on Thursday.

    Frank Lynch, Scotland.

  • Peter - London May 4, 2010, 5:49 pm

    “BTW There was an excellent article in Der Spiegel concerning the rating agencies:”

    My understanding was that Icelandic banks didn’t very often use rating agencies for their products.

  • Sigvaldi Eggertsson May 4, 2010, 6:59 pm

    Peter. my understanding was that they used the rating agencies all the time. They certainly publicized the ratings enough (as when Moody´s (and Standard & Poor´s) gave the banks AAA ratings during 2006-7)

  • Rod May 5, 2010, 9:40 pm

    Iceland is a sovereign country and you do not have to hire a foreigner to prosecute crimes. If your prosecutors are not doing their jobs, then they must be fired.

  • hildigunnur May 12, 2010, 9:09 am

    Rod, they are – at least seem to be, now. I think it’s a really good idea to prosecute for tax evasions, tons of those to be found and there are already fairly harsh punishments for tax crimes. Wasn’t that what felled Al Capone and his thugs?