Carney neither shaken nor stirred by martinis email hoax

London Briefing: Bank of England governor closes down prankster as penny drops

Bank of England governor Mark Carney: “I will drink the martini and order another two.” Photograph: Frank Augstein/PA Wire

Bank of England governor Mark Carney: “I will drink the martini and order another two.” Photograph: Frank Augstein/PA Wire

 

Bank of England governor Mark Carney is partial to a martini, apparently, and likes a joke, but has trouble telling a genuine email from a hoax.

Carney fell victim to the same prankster who fooled the Barclays boss Jes Staley earlier this month, allowing himself to be drawn into an email exchange by someone posing as Anthony Habgood, the chairman of the court of the Bank of England.

The hoaxer, emailing from a fake Hotmail address, reeled Carney in with a reference to news stories about the “airbrushed” portrait of Jane Austen that will appear on the new £10 banknote.

The conversation, posted by the prankster on Twitter on Tuesday, proceeds to martinis, summer soirees – and bar girls – before the penny drops and Carney sensibly closes it down.

‘Bracing martini’

From: Anthony Habgood [anthonyhabgood@hotmail.com]

Sent: Monday 22 May, 09.56

To: Mark Carney

Subject: I see reports of Jane Austen in the papers today

Apparently her face resembles that of someone who’s had a ‘bracing martini’

I’d prefer a large scotch myself

Sent from my iPhone

Anthony

On Monday at 15.37, Mark Carney replied:

I will drink the martini and order another two. Apparently that was [former governor] Eddie George’s daily in take . . . before lunch

The exchange continues:

Habgood: L Really? He liked a tipple then I take it? Who can blame him! Ha!

Habgood: Actually, I’m glad I heard from you, I’m having a Summer Nights themed soiree on Saturday 17 June. As much martini as you can take. Are you free?

Carney: Sounds ideal. Will check at home and at work

Habgood: Excellent. I’ve hired some rather dashing bar ladies (is that PC?!) If you ask for the crystal glasses you’ll be able to admire their enchanting dexterity. I keep those glasses low down, ha! You don’t reach my age without knowing all the tricks.

Carney: Sorry Anthony. Not appropriate at all

Habgood: Well report me to Brussels then!

Habgood: You did know I was joking didn’t you? It’s an old story my friend is rather fond of, he’s quite the cad

The game is up, however, as the Bank of England governor realises he’s been had. At least Carney caught on rather more swiftly than the Barclays boss, who engaged in a toe-curlingly embarrassing exchange with the same prankster earlier this month.

Gushing praise

In a conversation he believed he was having with the chairman of Barclays, John McFarlane, who had defended Staley at the annual meeting, the Barclays chief executive was gushing in his praise.

“You came to my defence today with a courage not seen in many people. How do I thank you. You have a sense of what is right and you have a sense of theatre. You mix humour with grit. Thank you John.”

While it’s tempting to dismiss the pranks as a bit of a laugh with no real harm done – except to the bankers’ pride – the hoaxes highlight serious failings in cyber security at Barclays and the Bank of England.

For the latter, that’s doubly embarrassing, as it is responsible for overseeing the cyber security of UK financial firms. And it’s not the first time the central bank’s email security has been breached – two years ago, a secret project by the bank to assess the risks of Brexit was made public after a confidential email was mistakenly sent to the media.

Asked why he had targeted Carney, the hoaxer said there was “no real reason, I just wanted to see if the Bank of England was security-savvy despite its traditional roots”.

The answer to that question is clearly: “No.” The Bank of England should now be scrambling to tighten its email security to prevent further breaches – this time around it was a prank; the next attack could be far less benign.

Fiona Walsh is business editor of theguardian.com

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