An influential Conservative MP has slammed British banks over their attitude toward reform, calling on regulators to “not give in to special pleading from banks in implementing the reforms introduced as a result of the financial crisis”.
In a speech tonight at City law firm Allen & Overy, Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, said “there is a lot more work to do” to make sure Britain’s biggest banks are in a position to be “resolved”, or fail without a public bailout.
“Regulators have told parliament repeatedly that the UK’s major banks are not yet in a position to be resolved,” Tyrie said. “This is unacceptable for the public finances as it is unsustainable politically. The tax-paying public's tolerance for another bail-out is low, to put it mildly. And the public are right.”
Tyrie endorsed ring-fencing reforms, which will require banks with core deposits greater than £25bn to separate retail activities from the riskier parts of the business by 2019, but warned banks may “try to get around the rules once they are in place”.
“It is not a great surprise that certain banks have recently been more open in criticising the increased regulatory burden since the financial crisis. Nor is it a surprise that this includes criticism of the ring-fence,” Tyrie said. He went on to back a provision of the Banking Reform Act called “electrification”, which reserves powers for regulators to require the full separation of particular banks if deemed necessary.
Tyrie also connected ring-fencing to banking standards reform, saying, “It has become clear that you can’t separate the reforms required to ensure that banks are resilient and resolvable from the reforms required to improve standards.”
“The awkward truth for some of the largest banks has been and probably still is, that the huge amount of work involved in satisfying the ring-fence requirements is forcing the boards of those huge institutions to identify in more detail what is really going on in them,” Tyrie said.
Tyrie’s speech was welcomed by multiple members of the Treasury Select Committee.
Steve Baker, the Conservative MP for Wycombe, called the remarks “wise”, telling City A.M.: “Unfortunately, if the advice I have received on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) accounting is right, then the banks are much more vulnerable than they appear. In such circumstances, reform is imperative.”
Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, told City A.M. Tyrie’s comments were “timely” and “helpful”.
“Some of the lessons that were drawn from the banking crisis are no longer taken with the seriousness that they deserve,” Streeting said. But he added: “We’ve got to strike the balance between an unhealthy public debate that simply amounts to banker bashing with the understandable concerns that the public still have about the sustainability of the banking sector.”