Simon English: Despite this result, the FSA is unlikely to catch clever wheeler-dealers

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The Independent Online

Goal. A nice win for the Financial Services Authority (FSA) yesterday, which nabbed US hedge fund king David Einhorn for a spot of market abuse in the trading of shares in Punch Taverns. Having overheard that the struggling pub group was close to a new fundraising exercise – that's inside information – he moved to dump his stock.

The FSA did what it is supposed to do, check unusual trades, and must have found it fairly easy to put the pieces together. Einhorn and his fund are fined a whopping £7.2 m.

The surprising thing here is just how blatant, how obvious Einhorn was. Which leads to the following point regularly made by stock professionals: only the lazy or stupid ever get caught for insider trading.

Einhorn is a big fish of the sort the FSA has been trying to land for years, so credit where it is due. But it seems unlikely that the fine will make other wheeler-dealers fearful.

If Einhorn had been cuter, found some other way to go short of Punch shares rather than simply selling the ones he had, then in all likelihood he would be scot free.

Osborne's talked himself into a corner

How bad would the economic news have to get for the Chancellor to reverse course, to decide that Austerity Now is a mistake?

Judging from his remarks yesterday, a mere double-dip recession won't be enough to prompt a rethink, and it seems almost inevitable that we are going to get one.

So what then?

Part of George Osborne's trouble is that by being so strident, so certain of his actions, he has made it difficult politically to row back from his cuts without appearing weak and prompting cries of "you don't know what you're doing" from the terraces.

When he took office, Osborne,, continued to speak and act as if he were still in opposition, as if he needed to win the argument, rather than just explain his plans.

A different stance – here's what we're doing and why, but I'm open-minded about the future – would have made it much easier now for him to adjust policy.

As it is, he seems to have tethered himself to an approach that isn't showing much evidence of working.

A scary possibility is that he really believes that line he keeps trotting out about Britain having maxed out the family credit card.

That's a reasonable sound bite. Good for television. Be nice to see some signs that he knows the national finances don't really operate like a credit card.

He's got choices; he just has to be willing to make them.