PRESIDENT Obama and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, both addressed themselves in speeches on Wednesday to the culpability of banks and their regulators for the breakdown of the global financial system last autumn. They agreed that a strengthening of existing control infrastructures is needed but differed about the degree of change necessary. On the whole Mr Darling was the more moderate in his approach. He defended the existing FInancial Services Authority, Treasury and Bank of England tripartite oversight system as fit for purpose in principle even if the Financial Service Authority, in particular, was insufficiently aware of what was happening on its watch. Mr Obama is far from satisfied with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and proposes a much more extensive and closer network of regulation in the future. There are many lessons to be learnt from the past nine months, one of which is that having a regulatory system in place is not enough; the calibre of people in charge needs to be much higher than it is at the moment. The same can be said of the senior staff of banks and members of their boards. It is probably true to say that in both categories last year there were simply too many people who did not understand the complexity of what was happening. Putting that right is essential, but far from easy.
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