The Libor Scandal and “Soft Law”

10 02 2013

Sustainable Banking The ideal of sustainability is key to all modes of human activity and the financial sphere is no different. Following the onset of the global financial crisis, the governance of banks and business entities emerged as a burning issue. The Libor scandal has only served to intensify calls for greater accountability and transparency. Like HSBC, Barclays and UBS which have already been fined, see post here, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has jumped on to the whirligig and it has been fined £390m ($610m) by UK and US regulators for its part in the Libor rate-fixing scandal. The Financial Services Authority has fined RBS £87.5m and £300m shall be paid to US regulators and the US Department of Justice.

A large body of opinion, myself included, advocates using criminal law punishments to bring about change and force banks and businesses to behave and become better citizens in the financial world. Key academics – like Professor Bainbridge and Barry Turner – have endorsed my views. However, on proper analysis, perhaps it was I who had unknowingly subscribed to such well-established positions. Yet, equally weighty reasons exist why “soft law” options may present more advantageous alternatives to solving the problems in the financial sphere. Last month, acclaimed lawyer and academic Professor Roger McCormick – author of the celebrated banking textbook Legal Risk in the Financial Markets and Director of the LSE’s Sustainable Finance Project – took the time explain to me why options other than criminal punishments needed exploration to tame the crises emerging in the financial world. And I remain extremely grateful to him.

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