Financial News

  • 11 August 2014, 9:57

Arch Bank Critic Bowles Set For StanChart Job

One of the British members of the European parliament who led a clampdown on bankers' bonuses is in talks to take a job with Standard Chartered, the emerging markets-focused lender.

Sky News has learned that Sharon Bowles, who stepped down as a Liberal Democrat MEP ahead of last spring's European elections, has been approached about a role that would involve acting as an adviser to the bank on regulatory affairs.

Ms Bowles has yet to agree a deal with Standard Chartered and an announcement is not thought of be imminent.

If she does agree the terms of a role with the bank, however, it may surprise many of her former colleagues in Brussels, upon whom she made a substantial impression as a staunch critic of banking practices and pay.

As chair of the EU's influential economic and monetary affairs committee, Ms Bowles helped to spearhead the introduction of rules limiting bank bonuses to 100% of an employee's salary.

"The threat of bankers relocating to avoid the cap has been grossly exaggerated," she wrote in a newspaper article last year in which she insisted that she was an advocate of London as a financial centre.

"There are many good reasons for banks to remain in London, including the city's historical clout and financial expertise, access to the EU and capital markets, a strong legal framework, implicit taxpayer guarantees and the GMT time zone.

We should also not discount the excellent lifestyle and cultural attractions offered by what remains a world class city. In any case, if the effect of bonus regulation is to force the introduction of new blood and new talent, instead of the cosy clique that fostered the Libor-rigging merry-go-round, then perhaps that is no bad thing."

The new bonus law, which came into effect this year, has been bitterly opposed in the City, with lenders - including Standard Chartered - arguing that it creates a competitive disadvantage for banks operating in London.

Chancellor George Osborne is mounting a legal challenge to the cap, while efforts by banks to circumvent the rules by paying special allowances are themselves under scrutiny in Brussels.

Ms Bowles' arrival at Standard Chartered would - if confirmed - come at a difficult time for the bank, a former darling among City investors.

Earlier this week, Peter Sands, its chief executive, announced disappointing half-year results but brushed off speculation that the bank's board was planning for his departure.

Standard Chartered also conceded that it faced another fine from US regulators for inadequate monitoring of potentially risky transactions, which prompted further embarrassment when the head of its Asian operations accused regulators of treating banks like criminals.

Standard Chartered quickly moved to distance itself from the remark by Jaspal Bindra for fear of antagonising US regulators.

The bank declined to comment on its talks with Ms Bowles.

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