UK offers lead on closer regulation

The British government has proposed that every international bank or financial institution should be supervised by a "lead" regulator.

At the G7 finance ministers' meeting in Lyons yesterday Chancellor Kenneth Clarke put forward the proposal as a key step in improving co-operation on financial regulation.

The call comes in the wake of several high-profile scandals in the past few years, involving Barings, Daiwa Securities and the on-going Sumitomo copper debacle.

The two main supervisory bodies, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and International Organisation of Securities Commissions (Iosco), have spent the past year filling in an outline for closer co-operation published in July 1995. The aim has been to work out how to regulate financial conglomerates with a wide range of activities around the globe.

According to senior Treasury officials, the British proposal is intended to give a sharper focus to the regulators' discussions. The idea is that an international bank or securities firm would have a "lead" or "convening" regulator with the responsibility for co-ordinating information and calling meetings of all the other regulators overseeing a particular financial institution.

In most cases the choice of lead regulator would be obvious - the Securities and Exchange Commission for an American investment bank, say. Other regulators would retain their existing responsibilities.

The BIS and Iosco will continue drawing up measures giving a clearer outline of possible roles for different supervisors.