Report threatens bank break-ups
Britain's banks could face the threat of being broken up after a report warned the ring-fence to separate risky operations from savers' deposits needed "electrification".
In its first report since being set up in the wake of the Libor-rigging scandal, the Commission said legislation should include a reserve power for full separation if banks did not implement reforms.
The Commission will also take evidence in the new year on whether separation of proprietary trading would be more appropriate. Its initial recommendations could put it on a collision course with Chancellor George Osborne, who warned the Commission last month against "unpicking the consensus" over reform proposals in the Bill.
The report comes a day after Swiss banking giant UBS agreed a £940 million settlement for "widespread and extensive" attempts to fix Libor rates after admitting fraud and bribery.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commission, said the latest revelations "beggar belief". "It is the clearest illustration yet that a great deal more needs to be done to restore standards in banking," he added.
While the Commission said it welcomed plans for a ring-fence, designed to make the system more secure and to protect deposits from so-called casino banking operations, it added that loopholes could easily develop.
The ring-fence would be "tested and challenged by the banks", while it said politicians could also succumb to lobbying from the industry.
Mr Tyrie said: "For the ring-fence to succeed, banks need to be discouraged from gaming the rules. All history tells us they will do this unless incentivised not to. That's why we recommend electrification. The legislation needs to set out a reserve power for separation; the regulator needs to know he can use it."
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "This is an important cross-party report which sets out real challenges for the banks, government and Parliament. After repeated scandals, from Libor-fixing to mis-selling to small businesses, it is clear that we need radical reform of our banks."