Osborne’s plan to split the banks won’t work

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The Guardian reports:

George Osborne is to give government backing to plans that will force banks to ring-fence their high street operations in an attempt to minimise the risks of a second financial crisis.

The chancellor will use his annual Mansion House speech to lambast the system of City regulation inherited from Labour and will argue that putting invisible walls between the investment and high street arms of Britain's big banks will make it unlikely they will ever need another taxpayer bailout.

I'd love to feel excited by this. I'd like to think it was going to solve problems. I can't feel excited: I don't think it will solve problems.

The US equivalent action: the Glass Steagall Act of 1933 banned any relationship between investment banking and High Street banking. That was appropriate, right, and it worked.

This is a pale version of that. Unless relationships between the sectors within a bank are banned utterly though (and that's not the plan) and what is more systemic exposure between the systems is reduced then this won't have the effect of Glass Steagall.

The reality is that regulators are still looking for a magic bullet to solve this issue at a micro level. They won't find it. The problem is systemic. Banking is failing our economy and corrupting our society at the same time. And part of that corruption is to get round any regulation. This one will simply be seen as another, rather easy, challenge to circumvent - and I suspect that it will be 'got round' in days.

The reality is the reform had to be total separation and then a requirement that investment banking trade its capital, not debt, and taking into consideration the gross value of transactions, not the margins. Nothing else would do.

And we've missed another opportunity as a result.

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