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Public purse enjoys fruit of bank failings

02/01/15

Bank fines may have helped the public finances - but auditors and accountants will be tasked with ensuring such problems are not repeated.

They say every cloud has a silver lining - and that is true for taxpayers unhappy at the way things have gone with britain's banks in recent years.

It may please some to see that the penalties levied on banks for illegal activities in manipulating currency markets have at least helped make an impact in Britain's still huge debt.

The government came into office pledging to eliminate the structural deficit by the end of the parliament, something it has not managed to do, while the actual level of debt itself remains very high. Indeed, the last forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility raised the borrowing forecast.

However, the latest Office for National Statistics data has revealed there was a ten per cent drop in public sector net borrowing in November to £14.1 billion, compared with the figure during the same month in 2013. overall public borrowing between April and November was down by 0.6 per cent year-on-year to £75.8 billion.

The penalties levied on banks for manipulating rates contributed £1.1 billion to this figure. HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Swiss bank UBS and US banks JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America were all fined by the UK and US authorities over their actions.

While that may please those with a dim view of the banks in general after the events of recent years, it underlines the importance to financial institutions of making sure they have the right accounting practices in place, with good auditing being important to help root out any malpractice before it leads to serious trouble for financial institutions.

Speaking about the fines as they were imposed earlier this month, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) chief executive Martin Wheatley said: "The FCA does not tolerate conduct which imperils market integrity or the wider UK financial system.

"Today's record fines mark the gravity of the failings we found and firms need to take responsibility for putting it right. They must make sure their traders do not game the system to boost profits or leave the ethics of their conduct to compliance to worry about." 

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