Former Bank of Scotland CE Sir Peter Burt has called on the Bank of England
to relax rules on how banks account for their assets on the balance sheet, in
the face of mark-to-market or fair value accounting rules which could see these
booked below their value, amidst a volatile market.
Sir Peter is the latest senior figure to add his voice to the growing revolt
against mark-to-market pricing, warning over the weekend that the credit market
freeze is so serious that Britain could slump into recession, the
‘To the proverbial visitor from Mars, the problem and its solution might seem
clear. In the past week, I have been told by senior bankers and customers of
having mark down assets of undoubted value. No bank will lend or invest if, by
doing so, they have to take an immediate write down as a result of being
required to mark the asset to an unrealistic market price,’ Sir Peter said.
‘With an increasingly severe contraction of credit – likely to be exacerbated
if Northern Rock actually does manage to repay £24bn to the Government in the
next year – and with interest rates stuck stubbornly above base rate, the UK is
facing an increasing risk of a slowdown turning into a recession,’ he added.
If rules were relaxed, lenders would be relieved of some of the strain and
could be encouraged to lend to each other and customers.
However accounting regulations require banks to ‘fair value’ assets.
But the rules have been criticised for not making sense in the current market
turmoil because there is no market for quality assets and banks are forced to
take inappropriately heavy write-downs.
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