Toxic assets, a definition

Imagine that you are about to host a barbecue and you have lots of pork fillets to cook. However you suspect that one of them might be off. What do you do?

Throw it away? Or cook it and eat it yourself, to ensure none of your guests gets sick?

No, you throw them all in a sausage machine and make loads of sausages, so as to dilute the risk. But guess what? All your guests get sick!

How about that for a great metaphor for toxic assets? I heard it last Friday on a wonderful BBC Radio 4 programme called “More Or Less”, (repeated Sunday nights) which looks at the numbers behind the news stories. In particular it tries to add some perspective and – dare I say it? – accuracy to the statistics we hear thrown around liberally but often misleadingly. The programme’s presenter Tim Harford has asked listeners to send in more metaphors to describe any aspect of the current financial situation. So, all you creative folks out there, get e-mailing, via the programme’s website,

BTW, the pork fillet metaphor was in turn quoted as being from the Today programme and was coined by the Editor of “Money Week”. Apologies to all concerned if I have misquoted it.