James Moore: Slightly less terrible

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The Independent Online

Outlook: Fair to say that the Financial Services Authority has overcome its unaccountable shyness about cracking heads when it comes to the City of London's disturbingly large corps of crooks. But has the recent flurry of high-profile convictions made the rogues any more circumspect? That's rather more debatable.

According to the watchdog's own figures suspicious movements in the share prices of either bidding or target companies occur before one in five transactions. The FSA yesterday actually trumpeted the fact that this year's figure of 19.8 per cent is marginally down on last year's 21.2 per cent.

If it is celebrating such a very minor improvement then, Houston, we really do have a problem. But it's the best since 2003, says the FSA, digging its own hole because if that is the case then things have deteriorated on its watch.

The regulator points out that it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the data on suspicious movements, which can be caused by factors unrelated to genuine market abuse, but says the decline is nonetheless welcome.

That is sheer complacency. "Stubbornly high" is how regulation lawyer Simon Morris, of Cameron McKenna, describes the figure – a shade closer to the mark than the wooly words contained in the FSA's annual report. It's school report might read "must try harder".

Except that the FSA has graduated and policing London's dirty markets will now be the job of the Financial Conduct Authority. Which won't be short of work if these figures are anything to go by.

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