LONDON, FEB. 11 -- British Stock Exchange Chairman Sir Nicholas Goodison has proposed that regulation of securities markets be concentrated in national central banks instead of divided among different regulatory bodies, as is the case in both Britain and the United States.
"The various American reports talk of the need for unified regulation," Goodison said in a speech Wednesday night, referring to recent U.S. studies of the causes of last October's stock market collapse.
"They are right. ... It is my view, given the heavy involvement of banks in securities markets and the risk which this brings to the world financial system, that central banks must and will become the prime regulators."
Britain plays an influential role in world financial regulation, in part because of its long experience in the area.
The London stock market, although smaller than New York or Tokyo, can claim to be the most deregulated market in the world, with fewer restrictions on entrants than any other. American commercial banks, for example, are barred by U.S. law from entering the securities business at home, but at least 70 are involved in the securities business in London.
Bank of England Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton described Goodison's speech as "excellent," but did not comment directly on the proposal that the bank be given additional authority. The bank has responsibility here for regulating commercial banks, the government bond market, and the foreign exchange markets. Equity markets are regulated by the Securities and Investment Board (SIB), analogous to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SIB, set up only two years ago as part of the so-called Big Bang reforms, is completing its regulations, which come into full operation in April.
A Bank of England spokesman declined to comment on Goodison's suggestion that supervisory authority of the equity markets be transferred from the SIB to the bank.
He said the bank was working hard to obtain more closely coordinated regulation, both domestically and internationally, of financial markets. For example, representatives of the bank and SIB met in New York last week with officials of the SEC and the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
Goodison's comments come amid a debate here on the performance of the markets in October.
The London Stock Exchange's report on the collapse, released this week, was overwhelmingly positive. It praised British brokers for maintaining liquidity throughout the post-Oct. 19 period, and rejected accusations that market makers panicked and dumped stock, arguing that they had instead been buyers on Black Monday.
It conceded that at times it was difficult for investors to get through to brokers on the telephones, but excused that because the volume of transactions, up to 100,000 per day, was more than double normal levels.
Politicians and commentators here have attacked the stock exchange's report as a "whitewash" and "self-justification."
"It was an exercise in self-congratulation, a technical analysis without looking at the causes of the crash or the wider lessons that might be learned," said Tony Blair, a Labor member of Parliament and the party's spokesman on financial affairs.
Blair has asked the government to commission an independent report into the crash, patterned after the U.S. Brady Commission study. Blair said he wanted a closer look into regulation of the traded options market and the treatment that small investors received.
Goodison firmly rejected trading limits or any form of "circuit-breakers" for the London market, as proposed by the Brady panel. Asked if he thought circuit-breakers were a good idea for the New York market, Goodison, known for his wit, replied, "Oh yes, because then more business will come to London."
Graham Knox, managing director of Scottish Amicable's investment management arm, claimed that London's performance compared unfavorably with New York in the week of Oct. 19. "There were times during that first week when we tried to sell into a price recovery and found it virtually impossible to deal in size," he said. "We found New York recovered its liquidity more quickly than the London market.
"But the current shakeout will lead ultimately to a situation, I hope, of better capitalized firms and better liquidity," Knox added, referring to the widespread layoffs and withdrawals going on in most sectors of London's financial markets.