The Break-Up of the Financial Services Authority
28 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2010 Last revised: 2 Mar 2011
Date Written: October 11, 2010
The history of British financial market supervision seems to be repeating itself: in 1997 a new Government announced sweeping reform to the institutional framework just days after it came to power; in 2010, with another new Government now in place, major institutional re-organisation is starting all over again.
This article contends there was not a clear-cut case for outright abolition of the Financial Services Authority. Fixing it was a solid option in principle and it was politics that dictated a different result. Since all institutional models for financial market supervision have pros and cons, the article argues that flaws must be expected in the objectives-oriented institutional model that the UK has now chosen to adopt in place of the integrated approach.
The article then goes on to suggest that close study of the FSA’s track record could help address the risk of wrong turns in institutional design. With this purpose in mind, the article looks at the FSA’s experience in four key areas - style of supervision, enforcement, efficiency and economy, and consumer protection. Given that the FSA is not the complete disaster that some have suggested, it is unsurprising that this review finds strengths as well as weaknesses. The article acknowledges that the loss of some positive features must be accepted as an inevitable consequence of the break-up but suggests certain modifications to the proposals that could minimise the negative side-effects. It identifies aspects of the FSA’s style and approach that will be inherited by its successors but which may not endure in the longer term. It pinpoints some new challenges for the successor bodies.
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