Banking and securities supervisors need to pick "lead regulators" to better oversee global financial firms, a top Bank of England official said.
Speaking Thursday at the annual meeting of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association here, Michael Foot, executive director for financial stability at the British central bank, said that by taking charge in a crisis and fostering information-sharing in calmer times, these lead agencies could help avert the likes of last year's Barings Bank debacle.
The venerable London investment bank collapsed when huge, unauthorized futures-exchange bets by a Singapore-based trader went bad. In retrospect, Mr. Foot said, there were warning signs before the collapse - just no one to make sense of them.
"One way in which Barings' net positions would have come to light would have been if some regulatory body had received and pooled the information available to the (, Osaka, and Tokyo exchanges," Mr. Foot said. "Each host country may have a piece of the jigsaw. Who is going to piece these together and how?"
Barings, not a large bank by global standards, had securities subsidiaries in 16 countries, making oversight by bank regulators extremely difficult, Mr. Foot. To improve supervision, Mr. Foot said he is trying "to secure general acceptance of the idea that, for every internationally or functionally dispersed group, there should be one regulator identified whose responsibilities run wider than the others."
Bank supervisors in most major industrial nations already follow the lead regulator model - although it broke down in the case of Daiwa Bank last year, when Japan's central bank failed to tell the Federal Reserve about bond-trading losses at Daiwa's New York office. Mr. Foot said getting securities regulators to join in may be difficult, but he thinks it's possible that a lead regulator plan will come up at the next summit meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.
The theme of increased regulatory cooperation and consistency was common at the derivatives trade group meeting.
"One of the biggest problems that Daiwa and Barings revealed was a breakdown of communication between regulators," said Douglas E. Harris, senior deputy comptroller for capital markets at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Certainly what has to be strengthened are the lines of communication and the quality of communication."