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Friday, November 09, 2007

Fiddling While Rome Burns

Thomas Huertas, acting managing director of wholesale and institutional markets at the Financial Services Authority (FSA), gave a less than ringing endorsement of the quality of staff at the FSA when speaking at the Reuters Finance Summit.


"We are operating with the team that we have. It is a high quality team. It is in our view doing the job.

We can always use better quality people. We said we would like to have more quality people and any CVs you push in our direction would be most welcome

The FSA has come under heavy fire for it's "lightness of touch" in applying principles based regulation, rather than a rules driven approach. The Northern Rock debacle has hardly helped its reputation.

Huertas claims that the full lessons from the Northern Rock debacle will not be clear until next year. Far too long to wait for that, in my view.

Asked if the FSA was operating at full stretch, as a result of the liquidity crisis, Huertas said:

"Yes, it's fair to say that.

We have business as usual to regulate and supervise 20,000 firms here in the UK and there is a huge amount of work on liquidity and capital and large exposures that have dramatically increased and our staff are stretched

He believes that it is too early to talk about shaking up the tripartite system of regulating banks.

He is wrong.

The Northern Rock debacle provides clear evidence that the current tripartite system does not work, as does the aftermath where each member of the tripartite system (Bank of England, Treasury and FSA) sought to blame the other.

The fact remains that the board of Northern Rock were allowed to destroy the company, without any meaningful intervention from the regulatory authorities.

Make no mistake, Northern Rock in its current form is finished; the fact that the board (aside from the chairman) cling on to office and the FSA claim that no changes in the regulatory framework are needed is a disgrace.

The FSA is fiddling while Rome burns.

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