Friday, 24 July 2009

What Price Silence?

It's okay, only 5 of the UK's top financial institutions failed so badly that they are in varying degrees of public ownership and depending on whose number you use, we are only liable to loans, capital and guarantees of £1.3 trillion. Not a bad year all in all.

That must be what the executives of the FSA decided when thinking on handing out bonuses last year. Not just any bonus, mind you, £19.7m in total to be precise. Lord Adair Turner, the Chairman of the FSA, who not only presided over the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression but has been given the remit to write a new role under 'Macroprudential Regulation', will be facing angry questions from the public about how he can possibly justify such bonuses which average £7,880 per member of the 2,500 staff.

Oh, but do not think that everyone will be receiving such a princely sum. After all, the CEO Hector Sants, deserves most credit for costing the taxpayer such an enormous, almost incalculable amount of money. He gets a further £130,000 bonus on top of a salary of almost £1m per year - so the lowly administrators at the FSA will get a bag of peanuts.

In a year when we have been whirled around by prodigious bonus scandals at banks and outrageous misappropriation of money by MPs, this is perhaps the icing on the cake. Or, indeed, the final insult.

The Conservatives wish to disband the FSA and give the Bank of England the power to regulate markets. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown says disbanding the FSA would be a huge mistake and, if anything, the FSA should have even wider powers. And more bonus, perhaps.

I am sure many people around Britain will be as aghast as I that the FSA is awarding anyone a single penny of bonus after doing nothing while the whole financial system crashed around it. The pathetic excuse that Lord Turner gave that the Government effectively told it to turn the other way simply does not cut it and shows how stupid Brown is. If Brown asked the FSA to turn the other way, then he could do it again, so it does not matter where the regulation sits, in the Bank of England or on Mars, if the PM intervenes to tell it what to do then it will fail again.

The city is working itself up into a lather as profits are up and the bonus good times are back. Meanwhile the FSA is piddling around trying to justify its future - not reforming the system to stop the excesses again.

Once more, lots of talk and no action will mean the gravy train has left the platform and the regulator is long way behind. But at least they will be able to count the bonuses they so richly deserve.

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