The UK bank has been fined for cutting corners on a 1.9 bln stg deal for politically sensitive clients in 2011. The temptation for banks to bend the rules for VIPs is just as strong today. But more vigilant regulators are chipping away at the idea that this is business as usual.
Imposing a staggered penalty on banks that hoard cash is one of many ways to ease policy being discussed by the European Central Bank. Such levies have drawbacks. But at least a split-level charge would encourage the biggest hoarders to boost cross-border lending.
Angela Merkel has ignored domestic calls to shut out refugees. But she will find it harder to brush off French calls for the same. Alienating a key ally would undermine the union Merkel wants to save, and threaten economic integration.
Britain is hoping its Help to Buy scheme will get more punters into the inflated housing market. That’s alongside 2.3 bln stg in subsidies to tempt private sector builders to sell at a discount. Even if this somehow creates 400,000 new homes, the rich gain more than the poor.
Creating a 1 billion pound sovereign wealth fund to encourage shale gas drilling in the UK could fail on two fronts. It won’t sway opponents of fracking in the UK countryside, and a financial windfall is unlikely given a global gas glut and unattractive shale economics.
Finance minister George Osborne isn’t quite the budget zealot his Nov. 25 spending cuts suggest. The UK has run bigger deficits relative to GDP than France during his tenure. He has also executed tax and spending U-turns when required. It helps that gilt investors buy the hype.
The $160 bln mostly stock deal will create a combination gushing $25 bln of operating cash flow annually. An offshore tax address means there’s no reason to keep over $60 bln of cash on its balance sheet. That’s a lot of financial firepower to buy back shares and fuel more M&A.