Dear Mercury Prize nominees, panel and fans,
Congratulations to all of you who have been nominated for this established and revered prize!
My purpose in writing this letter is not to question the merit of artists, nor the value of the Mercury prize, but to raise serious concerns about the credibility and ethical standards of the source of sponsorship - Barclays bank.
It is important that artists and musicians are aware of Barclay’s practices, especially because of the public’s current level of interest in the UK financial system following the worst financial crisis in a generation which, among other things, has resulted in severe austerity cuts to the arts.
A reminder of some of Barclay’s other recent activities:
- Barclays is the world’s largest investor in arms. In 2008 Barclays held shares in global arms companies worth £7.3bn. Some of these companies produce cluster munitions, a weapon banned by the UK Government due to the unacceptably high rate of civilian casualties caused by them.
- Barclays has a history of providing banking services to oppressive regimes, such as apartheid South Africa, and more recently, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
- In 2009 tax avoidance enabled Barclays to pay a mere 1% of its £4.6bn profits in corporation tax.
- Barclays has set aside nearly £2.5bn in order to compensate customers and businesses it had mis-sold two types of insurance to - Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and Interest Rate Swaps. Customers either didn’t know they had bought PPI, or were aggressively sold the insurance even though they couldn’t possibly claim it. Thousands of businesses have been hurt by the Interest Rate Swaps that have left some firms bankrupt with hundreds of thousands and even millions in costs, due to risks they say they were never warned about.
- This summer, Barclays was caught manipulating Libor - a key global benchmark for the price of financial products the bank trades in. There is email evidence that Barclays employees manipulated the rate daily in order to maximise their bonuses, completely disregarding the fact that their actions were also impacting the rates of loans and mortgages of millions of people across the country and worldwide, in what is estimated to be a $300 trillion financial market pegged to Libor.
Barclays, and some other UK banks, are, like tobacco companies before them, responsible for causing significant human trauma. We no longer allow tobacco firms to sponsor sport and cultural events, and the same should hold true for the banks which crashed the economy and yet continue to invest in socially destructive activities.
Over the past couple of years, the Move Your Money movement has seen millions of people across the world move their money out of irresponsible banks, driven solely to work for profit (like Barclays), to financial institutions with ethical integrity that work for the benefit of the economy and wider society.
But banking with Barclays isn’t the only way we are currently supporting and endorsing their activities. By letting Barclays sponsor one of the UK’s most loved music awards we are enabling the bank to build a reputation based on the talent of our favourite musicians, whilst cleansing their scandal plagued brand.
It is regrettable that Barclays has been relied upon for sponsorship of the Mercury Prize; it’s time to voice your support for a change of sponsor in the future that both nurtures and reflects the talents, hard work, and potential of our musicians. Don’t let your talent be used to make Barclays look cool.
Marloes Nicholls and the Move Your Money team.
Find out more at www.moveyourmoney.org.uk and @MoveYourMoneyUK