Wednesday, 26 March 2008

FSA Needs Help to Shut Northern Wreck's Stable Door

Hopes that the FSA's internal audit report into the (mis-)handling of Northern Wreck would quietly close the stable door have been dashed.

Not only do the recommendations in the report imply major shortcomings in the way "high impact" firms are supervised, but the fact that the revelations have come 8 years and so many scandals into the agency's existence also suggest that the FSA is incapable of closing the stable door on its own.

But the FSA is not so much to blame, as our expectations.

It does seem unrealistic to expect the FSA (any more than every bank it supervises) to hire enough people of sufficient calibre and to keep them sufficiently trained and informed to detect every significant hole in firms' evolving business plans/models that may be exposed by the latest financial wheeze. Even if the FSA could solve that staffing and data challenge, the chances of the FSA actually persuading bank management to accept that a particular hole exists and to plug it quickly enough seems very unlikely to work every time. After all, participating in financial markets inherently involves the assumption of risk, not completely eliminating it.

I guess there's no harm in the FSA continually striving to improve the likelihood of meeting these expectations - or aspirations - except for the ever-increasing budget that will be required.

One thought is for the FSA to rely more on third party firms to do the specialist business and economic analysis, leaving the FSA to focus more tightly on commissioning, reviewing and reacting to their reports and managing the regulatory relationship with firms. That would allow for clearer segregation of the detectives from the prosecutors. The profit motive might enhance the economic efficiency with which the analysis is done, and also enable deeper expertise to be built over a longer period than the FSA's career ladder might allow.

I hear howls about more money being spent by government on consultants, and that too needs a good overhaul for sure, but it's no argument for depriving the government of private help.

Whatever happens, the private and public elements of the financial services industry will have to work better together if more Wrecks are to be avoided.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Bohemian Rhapsody, Anyone?

You know that we 'live in interesting times' when the UK government is budgeting on most of us drinking, smoking and driving fast cars so that it can find the extra money to save children and OAPs from poverty.

Next we'll be asked to take on giant mortgages from Northern Rock so that when we default the government can take our homes for public housing.

And after that? When all the money is gone on booze, smokes, fuel duties and high octane interest rates?

I fancy just drifting around...[begins to sing to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody...]

"Financial landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
And look at your buys and see.
I'm now a poor boy
High-yielding casualty
Because I bought it high, watched it blow
Rating high, value low
Any way the Fed goes
Doesn't really matter to me, to me

Mama - just killed my fund
Quoted CDO's instead
Pulled the trigger, now it's dead
Mama - I had just begun
These CDO's have blown it all away
Mama - oooh
I still wanna buy
I sometimes wish I'd never left Goldman at all.

I see a little silhouette of a Fed
Bernanke! Bernanke! Can you save the whole market?
Monolines and munis - very very frightening me!
Super senior, super senior
Super senior CDO - magnifico
I'm long of subprime, nobody loves me
He's long of subprime CDO fantasy
Spare the margin call you monstrous PB!
Easy come easy go, will you let me go?
Peloton! No - we will not let you go - let him go
Peloton! We will not let you go - let him go
Peloton! We will not let you go - let me go
Will not let you go - let me go (never)
Never let you go - let me go
Never let me go - ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, -
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
S&P had the devil put aside for me
For me, for me, for me

[guitar bridge]

So you think you can fund me and spit in my eye?
And then margin call me and leave me to die
Oh PB - can't do this to me PB
Just gotta get out - just gotta get right outta here
[guitar solo]
Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
No price really matters
No liquidity
Nothing really matters - no price really matters to me
[instrumental ending]
Any way the Fed goes...

Anon. (circulating on the emails today)

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