A couple of recent events reminded me of two old friends of my misspent youth studying Greek.
The Greeks are a pessimistic lot. If someone displayed Hubris, i.e. an over-weaning pride and arrogance, then they were asking to excite the jealousy and wroth of the Gods and come a cropper. The ire of the Gods would be visited in the form of Nemesis, “retribution” with the miscreant brought low and humbled.
A year ago I saw the interview with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft (Australian cricketers) having a laugh at the Jonny Bairstow head butting incident in Perth at the start of the Ashes series, in which we were thrashed. I rather bridled at their arrogance with Smith bursting out in laughter.
Lo and behold, a few months later, we had the ball tampering incident in South Africa and the same protagonists conducted their interviews in far different circumstances, breaking down in shame.
More recently, I wondered if I had seen another example with the problems besetting Patisserie Valerie. I much admire Luke Johnson. Of undoubted intellectual heritage, he has wrought a formidable record as an entrepreneur. Lately I have been a devotee of his column in the Sunday Times business section where he has been displaying his wisdom and thoughts on what to do in business and what not to do. I recall a relatively recent article making some disparaging remarks about my colleagues in Auditing.
Lo and behold all this time there was a financial scandal going on at Patisserie Valerie, where Luke was the chairman.
I reckon the eventual report would be a must read but at the moment the information coming out indicates that there were secret bank overdrafts, cheques outstanding at the year-end which subsequently bounced, lots of dummy accounts in the purchase ledger with suppliers not being paid and bogus sales. Obviously there were clear failures of corporate governance but it does not look like a particularly encouraging situation for Grant Thornton, the auditors.
It just seemed to me that this might just be another example of Hubris and Nemesis.
I try and remind myself of Hubris and Nemesis if things are going well. Never get complacent.