Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In UK, fight over who should lead Libor Scandal investigation

The fight over who should lead the investigation of the Libor Scandal is important as it highlights the influence of the banks in British politics.

Said another way, we have firms that have or will shortly confess to lying for their own benefit trying to get UK politicians to once again protect them from any meaningful consequences (once again refers to the on-going handling of the bank solvency led financial crisis).

As discussed in a Guardian column,
Labour now faces a dilemma as it considers how to approach the crisis in banking. 
Andrew Tyrie, the able and independent-minded Conservative MP and Treasury select committee chairman chosen byGeorge Osborne to run the cross-party parliamentary inquiry into banking, has said he will pull out if he does not have all-party support for his work. 
So Ed Miliband has the power of veto over this inquiry.... It might seem churlish, or even defensive if it blocks an inquiry, but Miliband also feels it has ample reason to hold out for something independent of politicians. 
The arguments against a parliamentary inquiry come large and small. Labour said its inquiry would only take 12 months and argued the government inquiry was narrowly drawn into the handling of Libor, an issue into which there was little controversy about how to reform....
It is absolutely true that there is little controversy that the needed reform is transparency.

However, the idea of requiring the banks to provide ultra transparency and disclose on an on-going basis their current asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details is highly controversial as it forces a change in both the banks' business model (from profiting from opacity to supporting the real economy) and culture (sunlight is the best disinfectant for the type of behavior that gave rise to the Libor scandal). 
Osborne is a brilliant political animal but sometimes he resembles the Pompidou Centre in Paris, all the normally concealed inner architecture is on continuous display to the observer.
His demeanour makes it appear as if he sees a parliamentary inquiry as a one-dimensional attempt to blame Balls for the banking crisis. He would do well to listen to the former chancellor Alistair Darling, who told MPs on Monday a parliamentary inquiry would not work if it is seen as a naked piece of political point-scoring. 
Equally Pat McFadden, the former business minister and no friend of Balls or the old Treasury regime, attacked Osborne for being obsessive in his desire to blame the actions of bankers on the last Labour government. 
There is also something unhelpful about Osborne repeatedly declaring we know what went wrong....
Regulare readers do know what went wrong:  regulators failed to ensure that there was transparency in the financial system and bankers took advantage of this failure to create an opaque financial system that was equal in size to the transparent system.
There is a case for a swift inquiry, so that any recommendations can be absorbed into the bills on the future of banking and regulation either before the house or due to be shortly.
 Ultra transparency should absolutely be included into the bills on the future of banking and regulation.
It would also be an opportunity for some of the experienced politicians to hold what Darling described as a truth and reconciliation inquiry into how the bankers became so powerful in British politics. Figures like Lord Myners, Lord Lawson, Lord Lamont and indeed Lady Vadera would have plenty to say.
This is critically important to investigate as it sheds light on which policymakers are members of the Opacity Protection Team.

It also sheds light on why policymakers continue to bailout the banks rather than allow the financial system to work as it is designed and requiring the banks to absorb the loses currently hidden on and off their balance sheets.
But Labour clearly view this inquiry into something more than tightening up a few clauses in a couple of bills, but rather a grand sweeping inquiry into probably Britain's most profitable but flawed industry. 
They argue the partisan battle over the nature of the inquiry in the past four days shows how unlikely it is that a politician-led inquiry will do much to shed anything but high heat and low light.

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