Outlook: Regulating global players

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The Independent Online
GOOD morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Jan Topolski and I am chief executive designate of Global Investment Mega Banking Inc. It has come to my attention that something called the Financial Services Authority has just been formally launched in a small but vitally important offshore link in our global markets architecture known as the City of London. This is a new all encompassing regulator for financial services in the UK, something of an experiment it might be said, dreamt up by the recently elected Blair government. I'm all in favour of innovation in financial markets - we do it all the time - but I do want to fire a few warning shots across the bows before anything gets set in concrete.

The first is that the needs of us global players are entirely different from life assurers, building societies, independent financial advisers and other assorted flotsam and jetsam thrown up by the demands of the ordinary domestic economy. As far as us masters of the universe are concerned, we are only over here in the UK at all because the tax is lax, it's easy to get to, the opera and strawberries are good, and, hey, you speak our language.

We've already had one or two unnerving experiences with your British regulators - notably the Securities and Futures Authority, which has been cracking down on some of our leading edge innovations - and let me warn you here and now, we're not taking any more of it. Firms must know where they stand. As any childcare book will tell you, it's no good disciplining someone for something he doesn't know is an offence. If it is regarded as reprehensible to mislead the market or disadvantage the client, then we must be told as much.

But I digress. I cannot tell you how infuriating it is for us global players to be beholden to all these national regulators. Be it on your own heads if you attempt to force our management structures to fit your own regulatory blueprints. We will simply move elsewhere. This is particularly the case in places like the City - and I don't want to appear rude here - where the local market is not particularly large and which is only used by us because it is a convenient spot for international trade.

If this sounds like a threat of regulatory arbitrage, nothing could be further from my mind. Absolutely not. It is not in our long term interests for there to be weak links in the global regulatory chain, which can be costly to us. Only you must understand that we here at Global Investment Mega Banking know how to do it best. I'll tell you what. Why don't you let us run the FSA? Regulators are such destructive meddlers, don't you agree?

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