Friday, 25 September 2015

Regulation: Who is responsible?

The news that Volkswagen's CEO Dr Winterkorn had fallen on his sword while at the same asserting that he had no knowledge of the engine control software which had been modified specifically to deceive rolling-road checks reminded me of the title of a conference fringe meeting last Monday.

As exposed by Baroness Kramer in that meeting, much of the trouble in the finance industry was caused by boards of directors not knowing what was being done in their name by people at the next level down. The other member of the panel, Andrew Whyte, director of communications at the Financial Conduct Authority, was able to defend the FCA by reporting that there was now a protocol under which each aspect of the business was assigned final responsibility to a named director. Apart from that, Mr Whyte was constantly stonewalling as only a former BBC PRO knows how. Susan Kramer apologised for any rustiness caused by working on transport matters until recently, but it was if she had never been away from her special subject as she tore into the faults that remained in the regulatory régime. She felt especially for whistle-blowers who were guaranteed to lose their career if they spoke up about misdeeds in their companies.

The moderator, Kevin Schofield, of Politics Home was formerly chief political editor of the male chauvinist Sun newspaper, and it showed. It needed noisy protests from the audience to force him eventually to choose a question from a woman. It was worth it. A young lawyer from a big City firm drew attention to an alphabet soup of regulatory bodies in addition to the FCA which complicated her work for her clients.

It was altogether a depressing session, enlivened only by the evidence of a number of people who are untiring in their driving the regulatory agenda.

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