Wasting The Banking Crisis

Whatever one thinks of the "special relationship" between the US and the UK these days, it's undeniable that what happens over there often has parallels over here. When it comes to the banking game, that's particularly apposite. Although the umpires are different, many of the rules and the players are the same.

So I wondered whether White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel's comment from last autumn (uncovered courtesy of Felix Salmon's blog -- from which I shamelessly stole the headline of this post) applies on this side of the pond. Emmanuel said: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

In the US, as Salmon explains, it looks like that's precisely what's happened. His focus is on the bear run in stock markets and the return to relative health of bond trading. Those factors are certainly in play in the UK, with the FTSE100 up a whopping 33 percent from the low in March. If the markets are back to "normal" so quickly, what's to stop all the factors that blew up the financial markets before from happening again?

What are those factors? Reading SeekingAlpha this morning, I note that BusinessWeek research is showing just how many US bank CEOs' remuneration is undeserved and unconnected to performance.

But this is the critical line: "Rather lamely, the BW article suggests that the bank executives possibly deserved their pay for helping their institutions navigate the rough waters of the last year or so. Unfortunately, that metaphor crashes on the rocky shore when you consider that most of them were kept from foundering by TARP money not the heroic efforts of the captains."

Sound familiar? It should: British banks this week have fallen into two camps. Those bailed out by the government in a big way (making losses). And those bailed out less aggressively or not at all (like HSBC and Barclays, making profits).

Few senior heads have rolled over the crisis, there's little in the way of new and meaningful regulation and the same problems still plague the City closed shop.

Conclusion? Gordon Brown has, too, wasted this crisis. New Labour was effectively born in the dining rooms of the City with John Smith and a much younger Brown "doing the prawn cocktail circuit". It's starting to look like he's still in wooing mode.

(Photo: nolative, CC2.0)