Tim Ambler

Is the Foreign Office fit for purpose?

Written by | Thursday 29 November 2012

Six years ago Keith Boyfield and I wrote a report for this Institute showing that both the EU options then under discussion, exit or accepting the EU as it then was, were sub-optimal.  Since then both those options have worsened.  We called the paper “EUtopia” and painted a picture of an EU that would be better for the members as a whole, better for the UK and, at least in our view, achievable over a longish process of charm, leadership and negotiation.

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Strangled at birth: Why the Financial Conduct Authority is not fit for purpose

Written by | Monday 29 October 2012

Why the Financial Conduct Authority will not be fit for purpose and should be scrapped in favour of a strengthened consumer ombudsman.

The financial watchdog is barking

Written by | Monday 15 October 2012

We are used to sabre rattling by financial regulators.  The last one told the industry to be very afraid of what the Financial Services Authority would do to them but, in the event, the only fearful thing was the FSA’s incompetence.  Martin Wheatley, CEO-to-be of the new watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, is barking similarly likewise.  According to the Independent on Sunday, he told the Association of British Insurers that he “will punish insurers and banks that make "excessive" profits”.

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Are the railway franchises on the right track?

Written by | Saturday 6 October 2012

If C P Snow was with us now, he would recognise civil servants and business people as two cultures divided by a common language, namely money.  Awarding franchises to whomever forecasts, or pretends to forecast, the highest growth in passenger traffic has finally been shown to be as daft as it is.  How the then Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, a chartered accountant who holds an MBA from one of the world’s most prestigious business schools, failed to recognise the fallacy is beyond words.

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Predistribution is an old trick for an old dog

Written by | Tuesday 11 September 2012

Ed Miliband’s new big idea is that wealth redistribution takes place too late.  One has to be poor first to get government hand-outs of richer people’s taxes.  How much better it would if no one was poor and then redistribution, and all the bureaucracy that goes with it, could be consigned to history. We would all rejoice if benefits could be cut without further impoverishing the poor. He uses Sweden as an example of a predistributive country.

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The FSA swansong

Written by | Monday 23 July 2012

The Financial Services Authority is due to pass into oblivion at the end of the year and not before time.  Now according to Patrick Jenkins and Caroline Binham (Financial Times 19th July), goaded by public furore, it is going to step up its investigation into Libor manipulation. Some may think that is better late than never. The FSA is now, finally, about to pursue more companies and “more individuals will also be studied as a result”. This is the wrong way round.

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Lex Americana

Written by | Friday 20 July 2012

Did you know we are all subjects of the USA?  It seems that we are.  A letter from my stockbrokers this morning advised that I had to complete two forms for the US tax authorities stating that I am British and have no US interests.  For the record, I have no US trade or income or investment or any other connection that should rightly be of interest to the US tax authorities but that is not good enough.  I have to prove it.

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How to streamline City regulation

Written by | Friday 13 July 2012

The Financial Services Authority grew significantly in the 2000s, to 4,000 staff. But its tick-box approach to regulation took its focus off fundamental issues and it was unprepared for the unfolding financial crisis. Hence George Osborne’s decision to replace it with new agencies, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for consumer protection and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) to supervise financial firms.

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Beware of protectionism in regulation's clothing

Written by | Thursday 5 July 2012

Ed Milliband’s cheap soundbites on the banking crisis could prove very expensive for British taxpayers as wealth from London shifts to the US.  Not only is the US the most litigious nation on earth but one has the impression that they see it as economic warfare.  We cannot be sure but it is at least possible that US firms losing out in the competitive marketplace immediately, but confidentially, cry “foul”. We should be alert to the dangers of firms using regulation as a form of protectionism.

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Questions for Barclays and the FSA

Written by | Monday 2 July 2012

Just when we think we have heard the last of massive bungling by the banks, it gets worse.  The FSA’s Final Notice to Barclays of 27th June is 45 pages and an interesting read.  Apparently the manipulation of Libor and Euribor interest rates continued from 2005 to 2011 but the implication is that it has been standard practice since derivatives were invented.

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