More rules, more problems?

Fixed income, commodity and currency (FICC) markets are dominated by the big boys, the professional traders and investors. In this proverbial ‘champions league’ of markets, retailers are restricted to cheering from the side-lines. Perhaps because it has been assumed that these highly sophisticated professional traders can fend for themselves, the regulators have not so far subjected them to the same levels of scrutiny as other sectors. However, the recent string of reported or alleged misconducts in FICC markets (e.g. the LIBOR scandal) has led the regulators to rethink that approach. The latest step in reshaping the markets is the Fair and Effective Markets Review established by the Bank of England, the FCA and HM Treasury, focusing specifically on FICC markets. The review points out that public trust in these markets is severely damaged and highlights the increased number of large-scale fines levied against banks operating in those markets. To me, that suggests any existing shortcomings are not down to a lack of enforcement tools or rules. An article in the Economist, discussing the broader issue of corporate behaviour, went so far as to suggest that enforcement of some US laws amounted to an “extortion racket”. I wouldn’t go so far as that but, wherever you stand on the issue, it is not always apparent why more recommendations, more guidance and yet more rules are the best way to create fairer, safer and more effective markets.

As this is an area of much discussion, it will be interesting to see the responses submitted to the Review by the end of January deadline, ahead of publication of recommendations in June 2015.

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