Global Solutions for a Global Problem

Last week, the Wall Street Journal in the United Kingdom published an article featuring the views of Britain’s Financial Services Authority Chairman Adair Turner.  Given the continued debate and relative inaction from the U.S. Congress, the thoughts from Lord Turner are particularly refreshing.  Here’s what he had to say:

One, finance got too big. “We must be more willing to ask…whether the financial system is delivering its vital economic functions as efficiently as possible, or whether parts of it can, and before the crisis did, swell beyond their economically efficient size,” he said in a recent speech.

Two, there was too much debt in the system. “There is a huge bias in the tax system towards debt,” he said, largely because companies can deduct interest payments before computing taxable profits. “If we can’t change that, then the regulatory approach needs to lean against that.”

Three, regulators failed to curb excesses, but politicians hardly encouraged aggressive regulation. The cry for “better regulation” meant less regulation, both in the U.K. and U.S. The diagnosis of Britain’s economic woes was that regulation was stifling entrepreneurship, he said.

Four, erecting a wall between ordinary deposit-taking and lending, on one hand, and trading on the other is impractical and unwise. Economies benefit when banks turn loans into securities or hedge their positions — to a point. But by forcing banks to hold capital in the trading operations to provide thicker cushions to absorb losses — he calls it “a bias towards conservatism” in trading beyond what is necessary for ordinary banking — speculative trading will migrate away from banks toward hedge funds and the like, a change Lord Turner welcomes.

Five, for all the angst about the slow pace of post-crisis repair of the financial system, global regulators are making surprising progress toward consensus on a new regulatory regime. “We are attempting in 18 months to do changes far more radical than we did in Basel II that took between 12 and 15 years and dealt with some of the areas which proved to be less important,” Lord Turner said, referring to the pact regulators reached in the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision that didn’t avoid the crisis. Pushed by the newly empowered Financial Stability Board, the process, he said, “has worked better than I would have expected,” he said.

Since the crisis was global in both cause and impact, it is encouraging that some are working towards global solutions to the problem.  As the regulatory reform effort unfolds, the U.S. must ensure that our reforms are aligned with our global partners.

lord turner

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About Wheelhouse Advisors
Wheelhouse Advisors LLC is the publisher of The ERM Current™, an online publication and blog dedicated to providing the latest updates on current trends in Enterprise Risk Management & Control. Wheelhouse Advisors provides cost-effective Enterprise Risk Management & Control solutions to both large and mid-size corporations. To learn more about Wheelhouse Advisors, please visit our web site at www.WheelhouseAdvisors.com.

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