Tom Peterkin: SSE arrogantly failed to learn

EVEN after all the scandals over bad management and downright dishonesty, SSE arrogantly failed to learn, writes Tom Peterkin

Ploughing through yet another dismal report into the dysfunctional “leadership” provided at an institution that was once a watchword for trust can be a depressing business.

Spending a couple of hours perusing a document detailing the mismanagement and failures of HBOS, as I did yesterday, is hardly the most uplifting experience.

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Poring over “catastrophic failures of management, governance and regulatory oversight” is hardly likely to raise the spirits. Nor is it likely to give one confidence in a banking sector that was once envied throughout the world, but has since been reduced to a basket case.

The saving grace of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards’ report into HBOS is that the failures it detailed happened some time ago.

One can reflect that the reckless lending policies, the high-risk strategy, the wildly ambitious growth strategy and the brash over-confidence that engulfed the higher echelons of HBOS have been consigned to the past (hopefully).

The same could be said when one considers the other great crises that have rocked some of the pillars upon which society stands.

It has been of some consolation that the appalling excesses of the MPs’ expenses scandal have been dealt with and hopefully will not be repeated.

Similarly, Leveson has exposed dreadful behaviour involving the press and the police.

Now that we have been through the cathartic process of uncovering wrongdoing and acting to prevent such abuses happen again, it is time to move on.

So one could be forgiven for thinking that after a period of wrongful excess, we were on the verge of getting things sorted out.

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But the slightest suggestion that things were getting back on an even keel was given an almighty jolt by this week’s revelation of yet more poor behaviour – this time by a respectable energy supplier.

Amid a welter of pathetic apologies and patronising platitudes, hard-pressed consumers learned that they been kicked in the teeth yet again – this time by Perth-based SSE.

Ordinary punters might have hoped that those in charge of a big company like SSE might have observed the public fury that greeted scandals such as the banks’ PPI mis-selling scam and thought to sort out their own shoddy behaviour.

The revelation that SSE ruthlessly mis-sold electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers on the false premise that their bills would come down shows that such hopes were forlorn and naive.

As SSE forks out for its £10.5 million Ofgem fine, one wonders how many more great institutions have failed to look in the mirror and learn lessons that have been among the few positive things to emerge from an era of unspeakable greed.