No banking unit safe from probes

 
Tim Wallace
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EVERY part of Britain’s banks will be open to scrutiny by the new Competition and Markets Auth­ority (CMA), its chief executive Alex Chisholm said yesterday.

He denied the body was swayed by politicians and their focus on retail banking.

Chisholm insisted his mandate covered any type of anti-competitive behaviour across the whole sector.

So far, retail banking has borne the brunt of the CMA’s attention, with probes into personal current accounts and into small business banking.

“My view on [claims of political interference] is that we’re independent, but we’re not in an ivory tower.

“It would be extraordinary if the CMA, as the country’s primary competition authority, were to shy away from responding to and addressing competition issues that are causing real concern to people in this country, so long as there is substantial evidence of competition problems,” he told an event hosted by the British Bankers’ Association.

And he made it clear wholesale banking units could also be investigated.

“The kind of practices which the European Commission says it’s found in the credit default swaps case – that is, major global banks leveraging their market power and control of inputs such as data so as to exclude competition from new entrants in trading financial instruments – would be of concern to the CMA, whatever the financial instrument or market,” he said.

One of the CMA’s predecessors, the Office of Fair Trading, had form in challenging banks in this market, Chisholm said.

He pointed to a case where RBS workers gave Barclays staff information on markets and client pricing. The result was a £28.5m fine for RBS.