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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 January 2008, 15:29 GMT
Rock report prompts reform calls
FSA headquarters
The report says the FSA failed to check Northern Rock's business plan
The government is coming under pressure to overhaul the way the banking system is monitored, following a scathing report into the Northern Rock crisis.

The Commons Treasury committee said the Financial Services Authority was guilty of a "systematic failure of duty".

Its report argued the FSA - the UK's finance watchdog - should have spotted the bank's "reckless" business plan.

The FSA said it had already admitted failings in relation to Northern Rock and was "addressing" them.

"We will also examine carefully any further lessons that emerge from our internal review of the supervision of Northern Rock," it said in a statement.

'Credit crunch'

To help prevent any further crisis, the report calls for the Bank of England to set up a head of financial stability.

It's probably one of the most damning reports that any select committee has put out in recent times
Philip Hammond
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury

Committee chairman John McFall said Northern Rock's directors were primarily to blame, but added that financial stability safeguards "failed abysmally".

"Northern Rock had only one well from which to drink, and the FSA should have realised that," he said.

"It was a failure of the regulator not to see systemic risk."

Northern Rock has been given 25bn of emergency Bank of England loans.

The Newcastle-based lender got itself into financial difficulties because its business model left it ill-prepared for the global credit crunch.

READ THE REPORT

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Unlike the great majority of UK banks, Northern Rock relied upon borrowing funds from the wholesale money markets to fund its mortgage business, rather than the usual method of using savers' deposits.

Yet when the credit crunch hit, Northern Rock suddenly found it could not secure the cheap funds it needed.

The Treasury Committee report said the Financial Services Authority (FSA) had failed to "stress-test" Northern Rock's business model.

The report also said the UK's tripartite financial authorities - the FSA, the Treasury and the Bank of England - were insufficiently prepared to deal with Northern Rock's difficulties and needed to communicate better with each other.

REPORT CALLS FOR
New head of financial stability at the Bank of England
Industry fund to protect deposits at failing bank
Special regime to take over running of any crisis-hit bank

The report also calls for the establishment of a deposit protection fund, funded by the UK's commercial banks.

The report wants the establishment of a "special resolution regime" for failing banks, to restore their health or "ensure an orderly failure".

The FSA said it would be publishing the conclusions of its own review in March.

'Ball was dropped'

The Chief Executive of the British Bankers Association, Angela Knight, admitted to the BBC that the FSA "hadn't covered itself in glory", but said the industry was still robust.

"As far as the industry is concerned, when the problems arose, clearly our authorities did unfortunately drop the ball," she said.

"But I think the most important thing now is not really to look at what did happen but what we need to do next. And in that report there are a number of recommendations which now need to be looked at and considered very seriously indeed."

HAVE YOUR SAY
If Northern Rock had failed, thousands would have lost their money and the country would have gone into shock
Liz, UK
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond said the MPs' report was a "crushing indictment" of both Northern Rock's management and the government.

"It's probably one of the most damning reports that any select committee has put out in recent times," he added.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said Northern Rock's managers "behaved like a bunch of cowboys".

"And the FSA did nothing to rein them in, or even appear to see there was a problem."

The government is continuing efforts to find a private buyer for Northern Rock.

It has proposed turning the 25bn of loans from the Bank of England into government bonds, which will then be sold on to investors.



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