Sir Mervyn King Wants RBS To Be Split Up
There are some who slip into retirement so quietly that you could be forgiven for missing their departure entirely. Then there's Sir Mervyn King.
The Bank of England Governor chose his appearance before the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards to launch an astonishing attack on the way the Government has handled the semi-nationalisation of Royal Bank of Scotland. He also signalled that the relationship between the Government and Britain's big banks is far too cosy.
Sir Mervyn, who steps down in June, said that the way the Government had attempted to keep RBS at arm's length, despite its 82% ownership of the stricken bank, "is a nonsense. The longer it has gone on, the more difficult that has become."
He warned that the bank's significant balance sheet problems helped explain why many small businesses in the UK had been so starved of funds, which in turn had led to weak economic growth in recent years. The solution, he added, was to split the bank into two - separating the profitable half of the bank from the overhang of assets which RBS invested in in previous years but which are now "underwater".
"The way to minimise losses is to restructure the bank and get a healthy RBS back into the private sector," he said. "It would clearly mean having a plan to create a healthy unit capable of attracting lending. It means a number of activities on the balance sheet need to be separated. Accepting that and facing up to the reality would be the right way forward.
"The sad thing is that the UK led the world in bank recapitalisations - it was an idea the US took from us. But they were more decisive in the way they did it than us."
Sir Mervyn added that he had shared these thoughts with the Chancellor, who, according to Lord Lawson, one of the members of the Commission, is resistant to such a plan. Creating a good bank/bad bank out of RBS would imply that the Government would have to put further money into the bank in order to shore up the underperforming half. However, George Osborne has refused to spend any extra public money on bank bail-outs.
Sir Mervyn said: "We need to accept the reality. [RBS] is worth less than we thought. We should accept that and get back to finding a way to create a new RBS that should be a major lender to the UK economy."
He added: "The lessons of history show very clearly that it is not a good idea to have banks in the public sector for very long."
The bank has now been in the public sector for almost five years.
Sir Mervyn also acknowledged that the Funding for Lending figures earlier this week, which showed a fall in net lending to UK businesses, were "disappointing but not surprising", given the troubles of many of Britain's banks.
In a broader warning about the leverage bank lobbyists have over UK policymaking, Sir Mervyn said: "I was surprised at the degree of access of bank execs to the very top. certainly easier access to people at the top than regulators have. In 2007 the only time there was a speech on regulation it was an attack on the [Financial Services Authority] for over-bureaucratic regulation.
"The climate has changed since then but the access hasn't."
what do you think?
Osbourne should listen to King, who knows what he is talking about, while our Chancellor is very knowledgeable about politics and terribly ignorant about anything and everything else, and that's according to the Daily Telegraph, the Tory supporting paper.
Well they won't let me have my say - so much for freedom of speech. King is right RBS have major problems with management and systems.