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Week in review: Roughing up the regulator

The FSA whipped itself before inviting rumour-mongers to offer up their friends for a flogging. Elsewhere, Cayne cashed in, Lehman lurched, Ackermann confessed.

The Financial Services Authority admitted it was guilty of a “catalogue of errors” in the runup to the downfall of Northern Rock.

According to the Financial Times, the regulator didn’t have nearly enough people supervising the Rock, and those it did have either didn’t understand what they were supposed to be doing or left before they had a chance to find out.

To make amends, Hector & Co. are said to be planning to infuse the FSA with PhDs who can work on complex risk models.

Alistair Darling restored the FSA’s dignity at the end of the week with the news that (according to Reuters) the regulator will soon have the power to lure people who know people engaged in HBOS-style market manipulation into blowing the whistle on their friends safe in the knowledge that they won’t be implicated as a result.

James Cayne, meanwhile, cashed in.

The chairman and ex-chief exec of Bear Stearns, who last week spent $26m on a deluxe New York condo, may have felt in need of extra cash for white goods and a new bathroom.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Cayne sold his remaining shares in Bear Stearns for $61.3m after JPMorgan quintupled (see the Times) its offer from $2 to $10 per share.

Two years ago Cayne’s stash would have fetched $1bn. But he was still better off than the Bear staff who sold at the initial offer price – or those who lost $3.3bn on restricted stock.

Cayne’s sale makes a higher counter-offer unlikely. Fortunately for any cash-strapped Bear bankers, Reuters reports that Bear memorabilia is highly sought after on eBay.

Lehman’s stock fell 8% on Thursday as investors remained concerned it could go the way of Bear Stearns. An SEC filing reported in the Times showed just how quickly things turned nasty for Bear, which lost $10bn of liquidity in just one day. Lehman’s share price rallied on Friday after a Citigroup analyst upgraded its stock and declared it had ample liquidity (according to Bloomberg).

Josef Ackermann, chief exec of Deutsche Bank AG, warned that the bank might not meet its profit target for the year, due to ever-swelling writedowns (said the Wall Street Journal). Fortunately for Ackermann, the Financial Times reported that he already has a 3m pension pot and can retire comfortably come 2011 when his contract expires.

Redundancy rumours continued to cause ripples, particularly in the vicinity of Bear Stearns. New York’s Independent Budget Office forecast 12,600 jobs will go across Wall Street this year, followed by another 7,600 in 2009, according to the Guardian.

CNBC (via DealBook) reported that JPMorgan intends to chop half of Bear’s 14,000 global staff.

Bear only has 45 investment banking staff in London, according to Financial News, few of whom reportedly do any actual work.

Bear’s bankers are likely to find it hard to land new jobs – Lehman is said (by Financial News again) to have told its line managers that any hires from Bear need to be signed off by the head of HR. And Bear hasn’t entirely lost its claws – Reuters reported that Bear successfully prevented the MD of its Boston office moving to Morgan Stanley without working out his notice period.

M&A is unlikely to offer any solace to bankers looking for new homes. Figures from Thomson Financial reported in the Telegraph showed first quarter M&A deals fell 31% globally and 40% in the UK. Both Punch Taverns and M&B pulled deals.

Credit conditions remained nasty as banks continued to hoard liquidity. Mervyn King made an appearance in the Telegraph to accuse banks of hubris and demand atonement for past credit-related sins. However, he also admitted the crisis was in a new phase and, according to the Financial Times, intimated that he may yet cut interest rates.

Hiring was not entirely absent. In the midst of gloom, Fortress told the Financial Times that it had added 40 people in the fourth quarter and planned to hire even more. Ukrainian-based Galt & Taggart Securities is also looking for a head of equity research, a director of corporate finance and a private banker for its London office.

Failing that, there’s said to be an acute shortage of shipping managers in the Philippines.

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  1. Great summary thanks

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