Saturday, June 30, 2012

UK regulator: banks were 'unethical' in years leading up to crisis

As Harry Wilson of the Telegraph reports, Martin Wheatley, the head of financial conduct at the Financial Services Authority,

has branded the conduct of banks in the years running up to the crash as “unethical”, saying that in many cases staff at major lenders did not understand the products they were selling or that they might harm their customers.... 
Britain has been left with a “big problem” as a result of what he described as the “back book legacy” of the banks actions in the boom years. 
“I think the banks suspended normal ethical standards and were selling products that were profitable for the investment banks, not well understood by the banking staff that were introducing them, and not at all understood by the customers who were buying them,” he said.
Last week, the FSA announced a settlement with Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland over the mis-selling of interest rate hedging products to small business customers. Compensation could reach as much as £6bn, according to one law firm..... 
Mr Wheatley, who takes charge of one of the FSA’s two successor organisations next year, also admitted that the FSA had “conflicting objectives” when dealing with banks.
It is refreshing to hear a regulator confess that they have 'conflicting objectives' when dealing with banks.

Regular readers know that it is the existence of these 'conflicting objectives' that makes it mandatory that banks be required to provide ultra transparency and disclose on an on-going basis their current asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.

With this disclosure, at least one major source of conflicting objectives is removed from the bank supervision process.

With this disclosure, sunlight can be used as the best disinfectant for unethical behavior.

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