Bingham Report on BCCI: Bank claims Bingham vindicates the system: Arrangements for dealing with fraud to be tightened up after criticism in official report on BCCI scandal

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The Independent Online
THE BANK of England yesterday put a brave face on the Bingham report by accepting its criticisms and recommendations and announcing a new top-level appointment to investigate fraud.

But Robin Leigh-Pemberton, the Governor, and Eddie George, his deputy, dwelt mainly on Lord Justice Bingham's conclusions that the 'present system of supervision has served the community well', that there was no need for a radical overhaul and that the decision to shut BCCI was justified.

Mr Leigh-Pemberton said: 'It was a good report. It was balanced in judgement and it made valuable recommendations. But it doesn't say the Bank was wrong in its handling of BCCI or that the Bank should have closed it down earlier. On the basis of that I see no need for any resignations.

'It's asking too much of regulators to expect us to keep depositors in a failsafe position . . . It's our job to reduce this risk to the very minimum.'

The Bank's response paid rather less attention to the stream of detailed criticisms of its handling of BCCI which are a constant theme of the report and go back as far as 1980.

In acknowledgement of its failure to use the instincts of an investigator at crucial moments, the Bank announced that Ian Watt, a chartered accountant from KPMG Peat Marwick, is to head a new Special Investigations Unit to pursue fraud and malpractice in banking.

The report said that the bank's supervision department did not follow up clues to what was going on at BCCI vigorously enough. Peter Peddie, formerly a partner in Freshfields, the City solicitors, is to head a new specialised legal unit whose job is to advise the Bank on how far it can go in wielding its powers.

The report says that in the past there has been too much concentration on what the Bank cannot do under the Banking Act. Worries about taking action unless the legal case is cast iron have hampered its effectiveness.

The Bank is also to do more extensive inspections of banks on their own premises. It is strengthening its systems for internal communication - criticised in the report, partly because Brian Quinn, the director responsible, was not always kept fully informed - as well as those for talking to the Treasury.

The Treasury said there would be a series of amendments to the 1987 Banking Act, most of which have already been canvassed publicly by the Bank, including powers to refuse or revoke authorisation of banks whose structures cannot be properly supervised.

Auditors will also be given a duty to pass information on fraud to the Bank of England. They now have a right to tip off the Bank, but no duty.

Plans for improving international bank supervisory methods, announced in the summer, are included in the response to the report. This will involve better exchange of information with overseas regulators and minimum international standards.

There will be measures to improve the effectiveness of the Board of Banking Supervision, the group of senior figures the report says were let down because they received inadequate information.

Mr Leigh-Pemberton said: 'I want our supervisors to have the resources, training and above all the support they need to do this difficult but critical job.'

Price Waterhouse, auditor to BCCI, welcomed the report, saying it revealed for the first time the part it played in uncovering the fraud and disclosed the full extent of its communications with the Bank over a long period.

Ian Brindle, senior partner, said: 'The Bingham report is entirely consistent with the position maintained by Price Waterhouse since July 1991 that as the facts emerged our role would be vindicated, and that we would be shown to have acted promptly, properly and professionally.'

Accounting bodies supported in principle the report's recommendations that bank auditors and reporting accountants should have a legal duty to report to the Bank of England in certain circumstances.

Sir Nicholas Goodison, president of the British Bankers Association, welcomed the fact that there was nothing in the report that would justify taking banking supervision away from the Bank.

A Luxembourg court yesterday cleared the way for a compensation package to be put to BCCI creditors. The package includes a contribution of dollars 1.2bn to dollars 2.2bn from Abu Dhabi.

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