In the last of this week’s posts loosely grouped around respect – or sometimes lack of respect – for the customer, I offer you a new word. A good friend of mine recently opined over a good glass of chianti (not, I might add, a contradiction in terms), “I reckon we should add a new word to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s the Drummernumber.”

Continuing in the best tradition of coining words after people, like malapropism and bowdlerise, these four gloriously euphonous syllables reference a certain David Drumm, erstwhile CEO of Anglo Irish Bank. As I write this, three of Mr Drumm’s colleagues are on trial for allegedly suspicious loans they made on the bank’s behalf in late 2008.

So why the connection to Mr Drumm? Well, according to a colleague of his in taped conversations between senior members of the bank which found their way into Irish national newspaper the Independent, Mr Drumm had a fondness for making up numbers, except that it was phrased in the manner of someone dextrously plucking the number out of one of the more notorious part of their anatomy.

The number in question was the amount the bank needed from the government to bail it out. The plucked number and the actual number were considerably apart. I remember from my MBA days the Japanese practice of multiplying by SIX the initial estimate of the financial cost of an incident to arrive at the more likely eventual number. This is the sort of scale we’re talking about here.

Now some of you will have heard the business joke, ‘Did you know that [insert percentage of your choice] of all statistics are made up on the spot?’ which plays with the idea that statistics help to illustrate or strengthen an argument so it’s better to make one up than not have one. The event that I refer to, however, which had major ramifications for the Irish tax payer, takes the process to a whole new level.

So, expect to see the following entry in the dictionary before too long:

“Drummernumber [drum-er-nuhm-ber] noun. 1, A number which has been made up in order to advance an argument or secure approval. Also colloquially referred to as ‘a number I picked out of my a**e’. Attributed to Mr David Drumm, former CEO, Anglo Irish Bank, q.v.'”

Who knows how the trial will turn out, but this quote-unquote that we coin here is allegedly a small episode within an allegedly colossal disrespecting of – and ultimate failing of – hundreds of thousands of tax-paying customers.

And as for Drummernumber: you heard it here first. Allegedly.

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