Is the financial system broken?

ft book review by Caroline Bingham  10 November 2018

“At the height of the financial crisis, Adair Turner, then head of the UK’s financial regulator, dared to suggest that the sector he oversaw had become “swollen” and addicted to “socially useless” activities. It was an extraordinary statement for a public official to make, especially one charged with understanding and watching over the finance sector. Fast forward a decade — past Too Big To Fail and mis-selling scandals and Occupy protests and $150bn of bank fines — and it is no longer so controversial. Two new books take Lord Turner’s basic premise a step further. Both Nicholas Shaxson and Oliver Bullough argue that the current financial system is broken and is actively damaging society. More than socially useless, it is socially noxious. They share a diagnosis, but diverge on cause and cure.”

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“Ultimately, will the warnings of both books be heeded? Early on in Moneyland, Bullough quotes the economist James Henry, who reckoned in 2010 that the global super-rich were parking as much as $32tn in offshore tax havens. “We are up against one of society’s most well entrenched interest groups,” Henry said. “After all, there’s no interest group more rich and powerful than the rich and powerful.” Don’t hold your breath.”

The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us All Poorer, by Nicholas Shaxson, Bodley Head, RRP£20, 360 pages

Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule The World and How To Take it Back, by Oliver Bullough, Profile, RRP£20, 304 pages

Caroline Binham is the FT’s financial regulation correspondent


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