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Verifying the validity of the Black Report

One of the more interesting aspects of the Black Report is that it is such an easy read. Many people here feared that it would be filled with jargon and legalese, but that’s not the case at all. It’s written in language clearly aimed at the man in the street, and peppered with lots of direct quotes by people who were questioned by the Special Investigation Commission.

One such direct quote that has attracted a fair bit of attention around here is one from Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson. He’s describing an incident where there was a meeting between execs at Landsbanki and Glitnir to discuss a possible merger between the banks – to try to prevent them from going under. Össur tells the Commission:

[The Landsbanki people] came to present something to us, some great offer. And he [Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson] sat there in his snazzy outfit, this bigtime salesman, selling something that revolved around them getting Glitnir for free and all kinds of other things and the entire foreign currency reserve and some kind of “guarantee” on top of that. And Halldór Kristjánsson [former Landsbanki CEO] sat there sort of like this beaten-down dog and wasn’t really responding. And then the meeting was over, Sigurjón was there [Árnason, Landsbanki’s other CEO and Icesave mastermind], there were snúðar [like big cinnamon buns] on the tables, cut in two, big snúðar. So Sigurjón has a sizeable mouth and is a big man, and when they had gone out and it was just him who was left, he took half a snúð, stuffed it in his face, and from beneath the snúður shot out this sentence: “This is never going to work. This is never going to work.” And then this hand with a gold watch came and yanked him out.

Now, you’ll be happy to know that Icelanders are not just swallowing the entire contents of the Black Report whole. We may have been that gullible once, but no more. We’re investigating. Looking into things, making sure they really hold up.

Case in point. A good Icelander has taken it upon himself to test whether it is actually possible to stuff a snúður into your mouth while uttering the words: Ég hef enga trú á þessu [“this is never going to work” or, if you prefer the literal translation, “I have no faith in this.”]

First, checking to see if it’s actually possible to stuff half a snúður into your mouth:

Ok – NOT.

Then how about one-quarter of a snúður, while saying Ég hef enga trú á þessu:

Err … maybe. But you would really need to have a sizeable mouth.

Comments

comments

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  • Lissa April 22, 2010, 12:31 am

    It seems many Icelandic bankers and politicians had difficulty judging size properly, not just Össur.

  • sigga April 22, 2010, 1:45 am

    Sorry, but this guy compared to Sigurjón? He could stuff half a chicken and still be a ventriloquist and say… this is not going to work in three languages. I agree that Össur was probably making more of it – it’s his style – but the guy – actually both of them are pigs and probably have similar table manners and for Össur to take offence at the others glutteny is something in itself.
    Lets not make light of the report and cast dispersion on it. Maybe some of the little “colourful” bits need to be taken with a grain of salt but lets not let that reflect on the report as a whole.

  • Robert Zierenberg April 22, 2010, 2:03 am

    I’m sorry, but those videos are mean. Not the part about making fun of the bankers, that is fine. The mean part is reminding me of the neighborhood bakeries I could walk to when I lived in Reykjavik. It’s bad enough that I can’t get hangikjöt, and I am in permanent skyr withdrawal, but showing me video of snúður is just plain cruel!

  • Stephen Cowdery April 22, 2010, 4:04 am

    You’re killing me with that post and those videos!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland April 22, 2010, 5:56 am

    Never mind the black report look at the travel carnage you Icelanders have inflicted on the world!!!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1267804/Iceland-volcano-eruption-Ryanair-boss-defies-courts-deny-compensation-airport-misery-drags-on.html

    Ha ha our very own Michael O’Leary makes his views known, Probably a good Idea for you to sit tight on your next euro venture Alda as they figure it will take a month for the backlog to be worked out.I will say this about you Icelanders, you have gone from being a place nobody had heard of to being well,world famous, everybody but everybody has heard about Iceland now!!!, Icesave and now this what next, Hekla perhaps:)

  • Joerg April 22, 2010, 6:48 am

    I suppose, the mouths were just bigger at this time – or the snúðar have inflated since then.

    I didn’t know that BÞ had been targeting Glitnir, too. Hadn’t he already received Landsbanki for free?

    And now he just needs some more loans and tax rebates for new ventures to pay off his debts…very good that Icelanders aren’t that gullible any more.

  • Michael Lewis April 22, 2010, 9:48 am

    There is a joke in that comment somewhere Lissa. ‘Written in language clearly aimed at the man in the street’, that may be read as slightly patronizing. I’m not sure. The report will be worthwhile if, lessons learned, people are put behind bars – if fraud has been found. Not if its Icelandic hot-air (oh god sorry, I’ve heard so many bad jokes/puns about the Volcano, I apologise in advance).

  • Max April 22, 2010, 10:42 am

    Now that’s a challenge if ever I saw one.

  • Schnee April 22, 2010, 10:58 am

    You just need a bigger mouth! I bet Mick Jagger could do it… or Martin Schneider. 🙂

  • Sigvaldi Eggertsson April 22, 2010, 11:32 am

    It should follow the story that the man in question has an unusually large mouth :))

  • Lissa April 22, 2010, 1:38 pm

    Mr. Lewis, there was meant to be.

  • Michael Lewis April 22, 2010, 2:23 pm

    “Mr. Lewis, there was meant to be.”

    There are some cheeky chaffinches on this site 😉

  • Joerg April 22, 2010, 6:12 pm

    If Icelanders have learned not to be that gullible any more, a lesson to be learned by Iceland’s President should probably be, not to talk to strangers any more.

    After his latest “you ain’t seen nothing yet” on BBC, which had already made him a prophet of doom, I found an article in the German yellow press today, which is headlined “Icelandic President: We are sorry!“ – not for the collapse of the banks but actually for the eruption. That’s weird, I didn’t know he was involved.