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Daily View: Reform of financial regulation

Clare Spencer | 09:41 UK time, Thursday, 17 June 2010

Chancellor George OsborneCommentators look at the abolition of the current system of financial regulation.

Gavyn Davies says in the Guardian that the Financial Services Authority won't be missed.

"[F]ew will shed tears for the Financial Services Authority, invented when Labour gave the Bank control over monetary policy in 1997. The late Eddie George, then Bank governor, would be smiling today, because he almost resigned over this matter. The FSA was far too gentle on the City for so many years, and never commanded great respect from the major financial institutions - which were on occasion openly contemptuous about its capacity to comprehend a burgeoning array of new financial instruments. (It later emerged that the leaders of our banks did not understand them either.)
"The FSA's efforts to control excessive levels of leverage and debt in the market were perhaps no worse - but certainly no better - than those of the very different American and European regulatory regimes. It was very much a creature of its time. Until the recent speeches by Lord Turner on the role of the financial markets in the economy, the FSA scarcely provided any intellectual leadership in the debate about the credit crunch, or on the emergency measures taken after the crash."

Allister Heath at City AM explains why he thinks Mervyn King is the real winner:

"Mervyn King has officially emerged as the credit crunch's great - and perhaps only - winner, even though his policy of keeping interest rates excessively low was the single most important domestic driver of the bubble (something which for some reason, unlike in the US, nobody wants to talk about in this country). Of course, the real culprit was Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, who forced King to follow a narrow and deeply destructive mandate, focusing exclusively on targeting the consumer price index and largely ignoring asset prices, the soaring money supply and the rest. Many monetarist, Austrian and other non-mainstream economists warned for years that a bubble was under way, only to be dismissed."

Alex Brummer says in the Daily Mail that the new system looks like it will be more sophisticated:

"Under the new system the Bank should have a much more complete picture and as in pre-FSA days will have tools, other than interest rates, to restrain policy. It could increase capital requirements in times of excessive credit growth and potentially place restraints on mortgage lenders - such as changing the loan to value rules - if it thinks the market is getting ahead of itself.
"None of this guarantees that supervisory blunders will not be made. The Bank's supervisors largely took the rap for the failure of Johnson Matthey Bank in the 1980s and BCCI's closure in the 1990s."

Nils Pratley wonders in the Guardian what the negative effects of concentrating so much power in one institution might be:

"Then there's the problem of group-think. Central banks tend not to be transparent organisations. When the country's entire financial regulatory workforce reports to Threadneedle Street, will debate flourish and dissent be heard? Not all of those complaints about King's performance in the early days of the banking crisis can dismissed out of hand. King's version of events - that the Bank was hamstrung by inadequate powers - has prevailed but some decisions could surely have been made differently."

The Times editorial [subscription required] is hopeful:

"It looks like the darkest part of the night is over in the regulation of banking. The cost of regulatory failure has been very high. This Mansion House speech starts the correction."

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