Over the weekend BNP Paribas accepted a US $8.9bn. fine for breaking US sanctions on Sudan, Iran and Cuba and concealing that from US authorities. One question arising is whether the US authorities are using regulation to gain competitive advantage over foreign banks. This was a French bank that broke no French or EU law and dealt directly with non-US sovereign countries. Why should the US be allowed unilaterally to impose US regulations? The technical reasons are that BNP Paribas relies on the US dollar for global trading and that they concealed their dealings from the US authorities, i.e. the sin was the concealment. Of course, revelation of the deals would have got them into the same hot water.
Supposing all this had been in sterling in the days that the pound was the global trading currency. Had the French then infringed some British law, would we have been able, successfully, to remove a ton of money from their vaults? The thought is ridiculous.
The reality is that the US is using regulation to gain competitive advantage for their banks. EU financial services have to comply with regulation in their own member states, additional EU regulation AND US regulation wherever in the world they may be trading. US financial services have only to comply with US regulation unless they are trading in the EU.
The US authorities seem to be fining non-US banks more often and by larger amounts than US banks. That raises the suspicion that the US authorities are partisan but it may, of course, be that US banks are simply more virtuous.
The US authorities using the extra muscle of the US unfairly is only the smaller part of my point. The global regulatory authorities are not in competition trying to attract more companies to come under their jurisdiction by lighter touch regulation. This kind of Darwinian evolution may apply to corporate tax rates where company HQs can, and do, move to lighter tax zones. The regulatory authorities are trying to bring more and more companies under their control. Financial regulation is not shrinking due to competition between regulatory authorities, quite the reverse. It is growing because of competition between jurisdictions trying to enmesh more companies in their tentacles.
Those who are against excessive regulation should not attack just the number of regulations from any one authority but attack the number of authorities seeking the regulate their business. The fewer authorities, the better.